M A I N   N E W S

Sharad Pawar wants Home at the Centre
Left voices reservations
Swati Chaturvedi
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 19
Buoyed by his sweeping success in Maharashtra, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar wants Home portfolio at the Centre in return for accepting a Congressman as Maharashtra Chief Minister.

Authoritative sources told The Tribune that Pawar had conveyed to Congress President Sonia Gandhi that he wanted the portfolio and two ministerial berths in addition. While, Mrs Sonia Gandhi is in principle not opposed to giving him the Home Ministry since current incumbent Shivraj Patil is a light-weight who lost the last election and is perceived as being a non-starter, trouble is brewing in with Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav who had earlier eyed the portfolio covetously.

The Left, which is keeping a watchful eye on the situation in the UPA, is believed to have conveyed to Mrs Gandhi that if she acquiesced in Mr Pawar’s demand the four-month UPA government could face trouble.

With elections coming in Bihar, Mr Yadav can ill-afford a chance to be perceived as having a lack of leverage. To avoid a similar situation earlier, the Left had suggested that the Congress keep the major ministries for itself. But with equations changing in Maharashtra, Mr Pawar is determined to wrest the concession.

Mr Pawar’s earlier desire for Agriculture was to ensure a package for Maharashtra in order to woo the farmers in which he succeeded.

Sources in the NCP say that unless they get what they want they will not budge an inch since they are in an advantageous position. “We have to answer to our rank and file. How can we now go back unless we can show a major gain”, they ask.

Meanwhile, in a bizarre development, the Shiv Sena has offered to support the NCP in order to form a government in Maharashtra. Former Speaker Manohar Joshi made the offer to Mr Pawar yesterday.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Mr Pawar will take a final view on what the Congress has to offer.

Interestingly, if the Home Ministry goes to the NCP, a key demand of the Left — the sacking of what they consider defeated and non-performing ministers such as Mr Patil, Law Minister H.R. Bharadwaj and I&B Minister Jaipal Reddy — would be met.

The Left has conveyed their displeasure with the errant ministers repeatedly to Mrs Gandhi. Sources say that all the pulls and pressures will culminate in a Cabinet re-shuffle in November.

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