New Delhi: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and party member Praful Patel on Friday sent in their resignations from the Union Cabinet to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Sources said the rift was over the number two slot in the UPA government after former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee quit to contest the presidential election. Pawar, as per seniority, should have been made number two, say sources.
Congress, however, argued that the NCP had only nine MPs while Congress was the largest constituent of the UPA and hence could choose the number two. So Defence Minister AK Antony has been given the honour.
It is being said that the UPA is not following the coalition dharma and is ignoring smaller allies. Sharad Pawar has now red-flagged the issue and has, in a way, asked the UPA to be serious about smaller allies.
Sources say that Pawar feels that the UPA is not giving due importance to its allies in big decisions. He is upset that other ministers have been given greater autonomy while he is being ignored.
Pawar had quit the Congress over Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin and formed the NCP.
He is also seen as a strong political face as he has cordial relations with people in other political parties as well. Therefore, the UPA is likely to make all possible efforts to placate him. The Congress sources, however, say that there is no such position as number two and that Pawar and Patel will take important decisions in the absence of the Prime Minister.
The UPA has faced a similar crisis with the Trinamool Congress threatening the coalition time and again.