Sharad Pawar called on Manmohan Singh on Monday, requesting him to “reduce his burden”. The meeting between the agriculture minister and the Prime Minister has created a political ripple and raised the possibility of a cabinet reshuffle before Parliament’s monsoon session begins on July 26.
The NCP leader, who also holds charge of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, urged Singh to trim his portfolio before the Parliament session — which is expected to open with an uproar over rising fuel and food prices.
When Pawar had made such a request earlier, the PM had turned it down. But this time, he said he would “think” about it. Singh is likely to discuss the issue with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Congress sources, however, are not sure if a reshuffle would take place before the monsoon session or after it ends in August. But when asked about Pawar’s move, a senior party leader said: “We do not comment on our allies.’’
Pawar’s “request” comes in the backdrop of a growing onslaught against him over rising food prices and his elevation as International Cricket Council president.
But sources close to the NCP chief claim that food inflation is coming down and the ICC president’s job is not demanding. They also maintain that Pawar’s request is linked to his intention to travel across the country and strengthen his party.
But Pawar’s plea raises a number of questions. Will the NCP leader, who has only one MoS to help him, retain agriculture and shed the other portfolios? Will these portfolios be handed to some other NCP leader or be given to the Congress and other allies? Or is Pawar — who’s spent 25 years in government of the 44 years he’s been in Parliament and Maharashtra assembly — playing for a larger game?