Sharad Pawar mum over pecking order



New Delhi: Despite the NCP being unhappy over the new pecking order in the government, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today steered clear of the controversy in the wake of his being relegated to the third position in the Union Cabinet.

"This is a function of agriculture so let's stick to the subject," was the refrain of Pawar, who is also NCP chief.

Pawar was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the 84th foundation day of Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR).

Media persons insisting on him commenting on the controversy as he was returning from the event but Pawar kept mum.

NCP spokesman D P Tripathi who had come to the function also refused to speak to the media on the matter.

But, Minister of State for Agriculture and Parliamentary Affairs Harish Rawat told reporters on the sidelines, "it is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to decide who will sit next to him in the Cabinet meeting."

"There is no problem within the UPA over the issue (pecking order in the government)...There is talk over it only outside," said Rawat who sat beside Pawar throughout the programme.

Apparently piqued over the new pecking order in the government, the NCP had on Saturday last stayed away from the UPA meeting on Vice Presidential poll candidate.

Recently Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had designated Defence Minister A K Antony as the No. 2 in his cabinet, signalling the new pecking order in UPA government after Pranab Mukherjee's exit.

On the NDA decision to field Jaswant Singh for the post of Vice President, Rawat said, "it would have been better if BJP had shown political gentlemanship in getting Hamid Ansari elected unanimously...But in any case they know the result that UPA nominee Ansari will win comfortably."

PTI