Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel quit UPA Cabinet?
New Delhi: The ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has landed in a major trouble with one its important allies Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and his lieutenant Praful Patel reportedly resigning from the Union Cabinet for being sidelined in the ruling coalition.
Sources told Zee News on Friday that the two NCP leaders sent their resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday evening, claiming their displeasure over the way the Congress has "treated them".
“The NCP, with which the Congress shares government in Maharashtra, is upset over the way in which the Congress has "denigrated and humiliated the coalition", confirming the development party spokesperson DP Tripathi said last night.
The two skipped a cabinet meeting last evening as a sign of their displeasure with the Congress, and will not report to work today. Importantly, Sharad Pawar today arrived at the 10, Janpath residence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi to discuss the issue. He is also expected to meet Prime Minister later today.
NCP chief is miffed at not being the number two in the Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Dr Mannohan Singh after Pranab Mukherjee resignation as Finance Minister and the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Pawar is upset over reports that Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde, who is junior to the NCP chief, is likely to replace Pranab as the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha.
Sources also said that the NCP leaders are unhappy with Congress’ growing proximity with the Samajwadi Party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Although they have sent their resignations, it is still not clear whether NCP will continue in the ruling alliance.
The Prime Minister, who is understood to have not accepted their resignations, is making efforts to reach out to them to resolve the issue.
The signs of trouble were apparent when Pawar and Patel boycotted the cabinet meeting Thursday evening chaired by the Prime Minister.
The boycott of the cabinet meeting by the NCP was the first time in eight years, according to sources.
Both Pawar and Heavy Industries Minister Patel attended a meeting with party leaders when the cabinet was on, source said.
Though Patel downplayed their absence, telling reporters that nothing should be read into their action, Tripathi was more outspoken.
He said the NCP had "problems in how they (Pawar and Patel) were being treated" in the cabinet. The NCP has nine MPs in the Lok Sabha.
He underlined that it was the "first time in the last eight years" that the NCP had acted in this manner.
Asked if the party was upset that Pawar had not been made the number two in the government after Mukherjee quit the government for presidency, Tripathi said Pawar had never asked for any position.
The spokesman said the "problems were much higher" and would be discussed at a party meeting. He did not elaborate.
He said the NCP has "always supported the policies of the government", and denied that Pawar was hankering after being made the de facto number two.
"Pawar has never demanded anything in his long political life", and added that the NCP has always demanded a "political coordination committee".
Mukherjee had always occupied the seat next to the Prime Minister at cabinet meetings.
After he quit, Pawar occupied the seat during a cabinet meeting. However, at the last meeting, Defence Minister AK Antony took the seat, indicating he had been made the de facto number two.