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Jul 20, 2012, 06.52 PM IST
After the Trinamool Congress, it is the turn of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to give a rude jolt to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
Though Patel maintained that NCP chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was not worried about getting the No. 2 slot in the Union Cabinet after the resignation of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, he 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.
Following Patel's not so subtle hint, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached out to Sharad Pawar to placate him. The Prime Minister spoke to Pawar called him a valued colleague. "Sharad Pawar is a very valued colleague of mine whose knowledge, wisdom and experience are a great asset to our government," the Prime Minister said.
Earlier, while addressing the media, Patel said that his party has been supporting the UPA for the last eight years whole heartedly.
"There have been some political developments in the last day or so. There have been speculations over days and weeks over certain position Sharad Pawar holds in the government. NCP has been the most responsible ally of the UPA Government - both UPA-I and UPA-II - over the last 8 years. NCP has been a pillar of strength both inside and outside the government. There are political issues between the Congress and the NCP that have been raised from time to time," said Patel.
"The UPA is entering last two years before elections. We should gear up for the next round of elections. The government should be decisive and with the able leadership of the Prime Minister, we should be able to deal with issues," he said.
He blamed sections within the Congress party and the government of trying to belittle Pawar and called such elements "petty". "Sharad Pawar sent a communication to the Prime Minister on the issues. I am pained and would say on record that people within the Congress party are unnecessarily fuelling speculation. About the No. 2 position unreasonable and undesirable speculations have been made by the Congress party. The Congress is using media to drive a wedge between reliable coalition partners," he added.
Patel said that the NCP was a partner of the Congress not just at the Centre but also in Maharashtra. He claimed the NCP had never tried to rock UPA's boat but added that the Prime Minister spoke to Pawar on Thursday night and issues of coalition politics were discussed. Pawar had also met Sonia Gandhi on Friday morning.
He said that Pawar's position does not depend on the number of NCP MPs and added that by the same logic he should not have been sitting next to Sonia as the party has only nine MPs.
Congress leader Rajiv Shukla also admitted that there were differences with the NDA, but the party will resolve them.
Pawar and Patel had sent in their resignations from the Union Cabinet Manmohan Singh on Friday reportedly over the rift over the No. 2 slot in the UPA government. 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. 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.
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