A visibly rattled Congress found itself caught on the backfoot over agriculture minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar's remarks that a series of scams have weakened the UPA authority and resulted in other forces such as judiciary asserting themselves.
At the same time, a section within the party appeared to be in agreement with Pawar.
"Scams have psychologically weakened UPA…and it is a fact," a senior Congress functionary said. "Whenever government becomes weak, judiciary steps in…it happened in 1970s and is happening now," he said when pointed out that judiciary had become proactive during UPA-II.
Officially, the Congress downplayed Pawar's statement. "We have always made it clear that every constituent of the coalition has the democratic right to express his or her views. But that does not mean that those views are shared or endorsed by all of us," party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said.
"This applies generally. It is not Pawar specific."
Another functionary dismissed the suggestion that Pawar had targeted the Congress or a particular leader. "Pawar never said Congress is guilty but mentioned that scams are weakening the government, which is a statement of fact. He was talking about the system and it is a fact that judiciary has become proactive," he said.
According to the Congress leader, Pawar, by seeking the intervention of central leadership, was advocating that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should be replaced. "Pawar will of course want the PM to be changed…He too has an ambition for that post."
During a media interaction, Pawar had said: "UPA-II started with controversies surrounding decisions taken earlier. The scenario changed after CAG report (on 2G) was tabled and it cited a (loss) figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore… At such a time, it is important to have a strong central government. But it does not seem to be the case. Because of this, judiciary and other forces have come to the fore."