Pawar irked at being sidelined; meets Sonia amid reports of resignation

Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with Sharad Pawar comes ahead of the Congress Core Group meeting this evening which is expected to take stock of the situation

New Delhi: Sulking Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar, who is believed to have resigned from the Union Cabinet aggrieved over a variety of issues, on Friday, met India’s ruling coalition United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, reports PTI.
Mr Pawar drove down to 10 Janpath apparently to discuss various issues including Congress’ treatment of its allies.
Mr Pawar and NCP leader Praful Patel were, on Thursday, believed to have resigned from the Union Cabinet, upset over a variety of issues including the number two slot for Mr Pawar.
Ms Gandhi’s meeting with Mr Pawar comes ahead of the Congress Core Group meeting this evening which is expected to take stock of the situation.
Mr Pawar, a former chief minister and one of the senior members of the Cabinet, is also believed to be hurt over the lack of consultations by Congress with its allies, including NCP, and its reluctance to include the party in crucial Cabinet panels like Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) or even being considered for the post of the Leader of the House in Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament), following the resignation of Pranab Mukherjee.
After presenting a picture of unity till the end of polling in presidential election on Thursday, Mr Pawar, the agriculture minister and Mr Patel, the heavy industries minister, had kept away from the cabinet meeting chaired by prime minister Manmohan Singh and instead, met in the house of Mr Pawar at the same time with some other party leaders.
The trigger for NCP’s sulk appears to be denial of the number two slot in the Cabinet to Mr Pawar which has apparently been given to defence minister AK Antony.
Mr Pawar, a senior leader, had been chief minister of western India state of Maharashtra thrice, was defence minister in former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao’s Cabinet and was once even considered in the race for prime ministership.
NCP is also said to be miffed over Congress’ attitude of not consulting them on issues in UPA.
The party is also apparently unhappy that Mr Pawar has not been made a member of the high-powered CCS which includes only Congress representatives and was worried that it may be passed over on the choice of the leader of the house that will arise when Lok Sabha meets for its monsoon session next month.
There was no confirmation from either the government or from NCP whether Mr Pawar and Mr Patel offered to resign or actually resigned.
There are reports that Mr Pawar and MR Patel would not attend their offices on Friday in further pressure on Congress to take note of their concerns and to concede their demands.
Mr Pawar had declined to comment on reports that he and Praful Patel had sent in their resignation to the prime minister to convey their unhappiness over the way the party was being treated by the Congress.
When asked about reports that the prime minister had called him in a bid to mollify him, Pawar told PTI “no comments”.
Similar was his response to questions on whether the two leaders had sent their resignation letters to the prime minister.
NCP spokesman DP Tripathi had strongly denied reports of resignation by Mr Pawar and Mr Patel.
The agriculture minister sat in the number two seat in the first Cabinet meeting after Mr Mukherjee’s resignation, but in the next meeting the seat was taken by defence minister and senior Congress leader AK Antony.
This was interpreted as Congress’ way of sending a message that Mr Antony was the virtual number two in the government.
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