The NCP's stand-off with the Congress leadership continued on Friday with the party saying it has "serious issues" over the functioning of the government and the coalition but remained vague on reports of resignation by senior ministers Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel.
After a meeting between NCP chief Pawar and Congress president Sonia Gandhi this morning and with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday night, the party, however, said it continues to be an "integral" part of the UPA.
Rejecting as "absurd" that Pawar was upset over the denial of No.2 slot in the Cabinet, Patel said the party has raised "completely different" issues with the Prime Minister in a communication and with Sonia Gandhi and what ultimately the party decides will be communicated after its meeting on Monday.
"We are unhappy with some aspects which have been raised by Pawar in personal meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi," Patel said after Pawar held confabulations with senior party colleagues.
Asked whether Pawar and he have resigned, heavy industries minister Patel said, "till such time we have not given any formal resignation. The issue is not resignation, till it is not accepted we have sent a communication."
Without disclosing the specific aspects of discord, he said, "our issues are: functioning of the Government, functioning of UPA and functioning of the larger coalition."
Patel said the UPA-II was entering the last two years of its term and NCP wanted the government to be "more decisive" and "more committed" to the issues before the people of the country.
"We do have certain issues on which we want some new direction," he said.
Patel accused some sections in the Congress of fuelling speculation that Pawar was upset over denial of No.2 slot.
"Even today they are spreading stories in the media that some of the demands of Pawar have been met and some cannot be met and that he cannot be given the No.2 slot as NCP does not have the numbers," he said.
"Unreasonable and unnecessary comments are being made by sections in the Congress party to create a wedge. These issues should be addressed in the larger interest of the coalition," he said.
Patel said, "Pawar is not such a petty leader who will raise such a petty issue himself. Our issues are larger. The issue of No.2 has been blown out of proportion. By virtue of his stature Pawar sits next to Sonia (in Parliament) and used to sit next to Pranab Mukherjee (in Cabinet meetings).
"He (Pawar) had not asked for it. That he was not given by virtue of numbers. If that is the logic, NCP had less even in UPA-I. The UPA and the Congress leadership realise that by his stature he brings much more to the table."
"In fact, those raising this issue are petty themselves. NCP is not petty to make this an issue on whether we will cotninue in government or not."
The fact that Pawar went to meet Sonia Gandhi in his personal vehicle and did not attend office gave indications to the effect that there was unhappiness in the NCP over certain issues.
Patel also said that even though the party had certain issues with the government for a couple of months now, it did not raise them before the Presidential election. "We chose to send our communication after polling for Presidential election ended at 5 PM."
Patel, however, said the speculation that Pawar and he did not attend the Cabinet meeting as the NCP chief has not been accorded the No.2 status in the Cabinet has happened due to certain sections in the Congress "wrongly briefing the media".
Patel parried specific questions on whether Pawar and he himself resigned or made any offer to resign. "I have stated what I think I needed to state. Beyond this, I don't think there is need to say anything. We will talk to you again after discussions in our party on Monday," he said.
He also said that he would not be able to divulge more details of the communication sent by Pawar to the Prime Minister before the issue is discussed within the NCP.
He exuded confidence that "we will be able to successfully deal with issue now and the future."
Patel, however, pointed out that NCP has been one of the most responsible allies of the government, both in UPA-I and UPA-II and had been one of its "pillars of strength".
AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, however, declined to comment on the remarks saying, "we do not comment on our allies".