New Delhi: In fresh trouble from the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Friday out the government on notice with Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel staying away from their ministries, but stopped short of formally resigning from the Cabinet.
However, the move was enough to worry the government as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not delay in reaching out to NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, calling him a valued colleague.
The Prime Minister made a statement praising the Maratha strongman saying, "Mr Sharad Pawar is a very valued colleague on mine whose knowledge, wisdom and experience are a great asset to our government."
Following the statement from the Prime Minister, Pawar wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi saying he would continue of be in alliance.
Pawar wrote the letter pointing that the NCP "has been a strong and progressive ally of the UPA".
"We have been a strong and progressive ally of the UPA and we shall continue to be in alliance," he said.
Pawar further said in the letter, "We are a small party. It doesn't confer stature or respectability so we need to build for future.
"Therefore, we need to devote more time to build up our party for future," said the NCP chief.
The letter suggested that the NCP's problems might not be just in Delhi but in Mumbai too. Several NCP ministers, most notably Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and Pawar's nephew Ajit Pawar, feel that their actions are under the scanner ever since Prithviraj Chavan became the Chief Minister.
But the Congress too has a reason to be worried. Despite its small number, Pawar wields tremendous clout and has friends across political spectrum which can come in handy if the government wants the opposition on board on key economic reforms.
According to NCP sources, it is not just the denial of the number two slot to Pawar which angered the party, but also the manner in which it has been overruled on issues like appointing governors and membership of other key bodies.
NCP leader and Union Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel, who addressed mediapersons over the issue on Friday also maintained that Pawar was not worried about getting the number two slot in the Union Cabinet after the resignation of Pranab Mukherjee. He also cautioned the Congress that NCP has been raising several political issues from time to time, but they were yet to be resolved.
"Pawar is not a petty leader to be raising such petty issues," said Patel in New Delhi on Friday while rubbishing reports that UPA was facing another crisis. He said the NCP would meet on July 23 to take stock of the situation.
Later, the Congress also tried to downplay the differences between the parties.
Addressing mediapersons in New Delhi, Congress spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi said that all the issues would be resolved through discussions. He asserted that there was no problem between the Congress and the NCP.
"Sharad Pawar is a senior and respected leader," said Dwivedi, adding that the Congress would find solution to all the problems.