Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has quit the group of ministers (GoM) on corruption, the government's first high-ranking casualty of a rising public campaign against graft.
Pawar was taken head-on by Anna Hazare - spearheading the campaign - who said on Monday that he considered Pawar "corrupt" and that he shouldn't be in the GoM.
Pawar, however, told HT that his decision was not related to Hazare's comments.
"What I have conveyed is that I will not be available to attend the GoM. I am leaving for election campaign to Kerala and other states and will be preoccupied thereafter," he told HT .
Asked if he would join the GoM once free, Pawar said: "Not anymore."
Hazare said: "Pawar should now resign as minister too."
Sources said Pawar decided to quit on Tuesday and wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday.
"Due to unavoidable circumstances, I wish to inform you that I don't want to be associated with the panel," Pawar said in the letter.
Pawar has faced allegations of involvement in controversial projects, including the Lavasa township, and was criticised for making comments that are thought to have fuelled runaway inflation.