M A I N   N E W S

Sulking NCP won’t rock UPA boat
Anita Katyal/TNS

New Delhi, July 21
Even as an unhappy NCP persisted to air its grievances over the functioning of the UPA government, the Congress stepped up its efforts to mollify its estranged ally ahead of its crucial meeting on Monday called to decide on the future contours of its relationship with the ruling combine.

The Congress was encouraged by NCP leader Praful Patel’s announcement in Mumbai that his party would remain a partner in the UPA but it was not clear if it will continue in the government or extend outside support to it. NCP chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had sent a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh two days ago in which he listed the unresolved issues between the two parties and warned that his party would quit the Cabinet but would not destabilise the government.

Defence Minister A K Antony, who was in Mumbai today for a ministry function did his bit to placate Sharad Pawar, who is stated to be upset at being overlooked for the No. 2 slot in the Union Cabinet. "There is no senior and junior cabinet minister. All are equal," he underlined.

On his part, Praful Patel declared, “We are in the UPA and will continue to be a part of it in the future as an ally. The Central Government gets our support every time and will continue to get it in future,” Praful Patel reiterated in Mumbai.

At the same time, he expressed unhappiness over the “lack of coordination” with the Congress, both at the Centre and in Maharashtra, where the two parties run a coalition government. The NCP is also upset that it is not consulted on major policy issues and that Pawar is not accorded the respect he deserves.

However, NCP sources disclosed that the real reason for the escalating tension between the two partners pertains to their resentment over Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s management of the coalition government. The NCP has not taken kindly to Chavan’s decision to bring out a White Paper on funds spent on irrigation projects during the last 10 years as Pawar’s nephew and Maharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar was the Irrigation Minister from 2000 to 2009. It was stated that this is just one of the many points of friction between the two parties.

Referring to the functioning of the Maharshtra Government, Patel said, “Unfortunately the functioning has been without coordination,” adding that NCP party leaders from the state want a coordination mechanism in place so that important decisions are discussed and decisions taken.

Ahmed Patel, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, is learnt to have spoken to the Maharashtra Chief Minister twice since yesterday to resolve these differences. He is also in touch with Praful Patel to work out a compromise, which could include the constitution of a structured coordination committee, both at the Centre and in Maharashtra, as demanded by the NCP. The Congress is working overtime to end the impasse with the NCP as Pawar has, so far, been its most stable ally. However, the relationship between the two parties has seen its ups and downs over the past several months.

Pawar has had differences with his Congress colleagues over the final shape of the Food Security Bill and the Sports Bill while Jairam Ramesh’s move to stall the Lavasa project in Maharashtra did not go down well with the Maratha strongman. 

Prithviraj Chavan the trigger?

NCP sources said the real reason for tension escalating between the partners is resentment over Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan’s (pic) management of the coalition government

The NCP has not taken kindly to Chavan’s decision to bring out a White Paper on government spending on irrigation projects in the last 10 years

Pawar’s nephew and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar was the Irrigation Minister from 2000 to 2009





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