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Congress keeps off NCP over IPL row, but strains appear

cricket Updated: Apr 24, 2010 01:08 IST
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With senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders facing questions in the wake of the Indian Premier League (IPL) controversy, the Congress has been avoiding answering questions on the ticklish issue concerning its ally, and cancelled its regular briefing for the second consecutive day, Friday.

"An investigation is being conducted (into the IPL finances). It will be premature to speak before the final report comes," Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said.

The Congress cancelled its regular briefing Friday in an apparent move to avoid answering questions related to the NCP leaders.

Though the NCP too has officially denied that the Congress is gunning for its leaders, strains between the two parties' relations are apparent.

NCP sources indicated that some Congress leaders from Maharashtra wanted to embarrass the party over the IPL row. The sources said that sections in the Congress want to tighten the screws on the NCP and assume the driver's seat in the alliance.

NCP sources said they were concerned about any damage to the image and credibility of party leaders in the wake of alleged linkages with the IPL.

The party Thursday emphatically denied that any of its leaders had any financial involvement in the IPL.

However, officially, the Congress denied any rift with the NCP.

"The NCP has been an ally of the Congress in Maharashtra for the last 11 years. They have been part of the UPA for the last six years," party leader Manish Tewari said.

Admitting that the government's determination to go to the bottom of the IPL controversy may have created some apprehensions in the NCP, Congress sources said relations with the NCP will not come to a breaking point.

They said the two were partners in governments at the centre and in two states and the precarious numbers of the ruling coalition in the present scenario rule out any scope of adventurism.

They said NCP chief Sharad Pawar's influence could not be measured only by the number of his party MPs in parliament.

"It's mutual dependence rather than mutual affection that demands adjustment (with NCP)," a Congress minister said.

The NCP has been upset over reports in the media linking some of its top leaders to the controversies surrounding the IPL.

After reports of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's proximity to IPL commissioner Lalit Modi, party leaders Praful Patel and Supriya Sule have come under scrutiny for their alleged links to the IPL.