Pawar, Patel offer to quit over no 2 slot for Pawar

Sharad Pawar
New Delhi, Jul 19: NCP sought to push the Congress leadership into a corner with its two senior leaders Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel believed to have resigned from the union cabinet aggrieved over a variety of issues including no 2 slot for Pawar and Congress' treatment of its allies.

Pawar, a former Chief Minister and one of the senior members of the cabinet, is also believed to be hurt over the lack of consultations by Congress with allies, including NCP, and its reluctance to include the party in crucial cabinet panels like Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) or even being considered for the post of the Leader of the House in Lok Sabha following the resignation of Pranab Mukherjee.

After presenting a picture of unity till the end of polling in Presidential election, Pawar, Agriculture Minister and Patel, Heavy Industries Minister, kept away from the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and instead they met in the house of Pawar at the same time with some other party leaders. The trigger for NCP's sulk appears to be a denial of no 2 slot in the cabinet to Pawar which has apparently been given Defence Minister AK Antony

Pawar, a senior leader, had been a Maharashtra Chief Minister thrice, was Defence Minister in the PV Narasimha Rao cabinet and was once even considered in the race for Prime Ministership. NCP is also said to be miffed over Congress' attitude of not consulting them on issues in UPA.

The party is also apparently unhappy that Pawar has not been made a member of the high-powered CCS which includes only Congress representatives and was worried that it may passed over on the choice of the Leader of the House that will arise when Lok Sabha meets for its monsoon session next month.

There was no confirmation from either the government or from NCP whether Pawar and Patel offered to resign or actually resigned.

There are reports that Pawar and Patel would not attend their offices tomorrow in further pressure on Congress to take note of their concerns and to concede their demands.

Pawar declined to comment on reports that he and Praful Patel had sent in their resignation to the Prime Minister to convey their unhappiness over the way the party was being treated by the Congress.

Asked about reports that the Prime Minister had called him in a bid to mollify him, Pawar told PTI "no comments".

Similar was his response to questions on whether the two leaders had sent their resignation letters to the Prime Minister.

NCP spokesman DP Tripathi strongly denied reports of resignation by Pawar and Patel.

Asked by reporters why the ministers kept away from the cabinet meeting, he said, "the pecking order was not the case as Pawar had never sought any position. Issues (for skipping the meeting) were much higher."

Sources in the party said the resignation offers have been made to make the Congress go into the issue and talk to allies on their concerns. Congress cannot take the allies for granted, the sources said.

The NCP leaders are expected to meet again tomorrow on the issue.

The Agriculture Minister who sat in the No 2 seat in the first Cabinet meeting after Mukherjee's resignation but in the next meeting the seat was taken by Defence Minister and senior Congress leader AK Antony.

This was interpreted as Congress' way of sending a message that Antony was the virtual No. 2 in the government. To add to NCP's anger, Pawar's name had appeared in the No 2 position in the list of cabinet ministers on the Prime Minister's website but the list itself was removed from the official websites of the PMO and Cabinet Secretariat.

NCP had on Saturday last also stayed away from the UPA meeting on vice-presidential poll candidate.


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