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NCP says it has serious issues over functioning of UPA

Fissures in the UPA came into full public view today with NCP complaining of "serious issues" over the way the government and coalition was being run by the Congress leadership.

delhi Updated: Jul 20, 2012 19:46 IST
UPA vs NCP,UPA,Sharad Pawar

Fissures in the UPA came into full public view on Friday with NCP complaining of "serious issues" over the way the government and coalition was being run by the Congress leadership.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached out to sulking Sharad Pawar, describing him as a "very valued colleague" but there were no indications as to what the Congress leadership was planning to address NCP's concerns.

A day after Pawar and his party colleague Praful Patel skipped the meeting of the Cabinet to express their protest, the NCP chief met Congress President Sonia Gandhi to discuss the party's grievances.

Interestingly, Pawar drove to Gandhi's residence in his daughter Supriya Sule's private car which was seen as an indication that he could have offered his resignation.

Agriculture minister Pawar and his colleague heavy industries minister Praful Patel did not attend office today.

Pawar later met his senior party leaders after which Patel said NCP was "unhappy with some aspects" of the functioning of the government and the larger coalition and this has been conveyed to the Congress leadership.

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.

"We do have certain issues on which we want some new direction," he said but added that the party continues to part of UPA. He dismissed reports that Pawar was peeved over not being granted number two status in the government.

Leaving the ball in the Congress court to address the party's grievances, NCP leaders will meet on Monday to discuss future course of action.

Shortly after Patel's press conference, the Prime Minister said in a statement to PTI that Pawar is a "very valued colleague" and that his knowledge, wisdom and experience are a "great asset" to his government.

The Congress also sought to downplay the differences saying Pawar is a senior and respectable leader of the UPA coalition and all the issues with the party will be solved through talks.

Reflecting the unease in the party, a senior NCP leader said there was lack of consultations with allies and absence of coordination committee to sort out issues.

He said Pawar's communication to Singh last night was a "cumulative buildup" on administrative and political issues as Congress has "not been inclusive" with its allies.

"Are we allies only to the extent of ministries or portfolios we hold? Where is any ally in the loop on any decision," asked the leader of Congress' old partner.

"My party has never felt it has been included beyond the four walls of the government and the portfolios we hold," he said.

The issue of setting up of a UPA Coordination Committee has also been raised by the NCP, which is part of the ruling alliance since 2004, but not implemented, the leader said.

Asked about the reported resignation by Pawar and himself, Patel chose to be vague, saying the NCP chief has sent a communication to the Prime Minister.

"Till such time we have not formally resigned or our resignation is not accepted, there is no question. The issue is not about resignation at all. There is only a communication made to the Prime Minister," he told reporters.

Patel was at pains to say that Pawar has a stature on his own and had been next only to Pranab Mukherjee, who was the number two in the government before his exit to contest for Presidential poll, even without his asking.

"Pawar is not such a petty leader who will raise such a petty issue himself. Our issues are larger. The issue of Number 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 said.

Rejecting as "absurd" that Pawar was upset over the denial of Number 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.

He said though the party had certain issues with the government for a couple of months, it did not raise them before the Presidential poll yesterday. "We chose to send our communication after polling for Presidential election ended at 5 PM."

He accused some sections in the Congress of fuelling speculation that Pawar was upset over denial of Number 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 Number 2 slot as NCP does not have the numbers.

"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.

"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.

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 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".

First Published: Jul 20, 2012 19:36 IST