Advancing his trip, Nationalist Congress Party chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar left for Delhi from Pune on Sunday afternoon, fuelling speculation that the UPA government may have sought his help in breaking the deadlock over Jan Lokpal.

Mr. Pawar, who was to leave for Delhi only on Monday, skipped the inauguration of a Zilla Parishad building here.

An NCP leader from Pune and close Paswar associate told The Hindu that the “Hazare agitation” could be a reason. “He was called to Delhi as the situation in the capital is delicate,” the NCP leader said.

Mr. Pawar, who has served as Maharashtra Chief Minister four times, has closely followed the agitations launched by the social activist in the past —an experience the Congress could tap into.

So far Mr. Pawar has not been involved in the Lokpal process, after he was forced to quit the Group of Ministers constituted to draft the government's version of the Lokpal Bill. Mr. Pawar has not had a healthy relationship with the anti-corruption crusader, whose allegations forced three NCP Ministers to quit the Maharashtra Cabinet. Suresh Jain, Nawab Malik and Padmasinh Patil had to resign as the Justice P.B. Sawant commission indicted them on corruption charges levelled by Mr. Hazare.

Reports say Mr. Pawar's views are now being sought by the UPA government as its initial strategy to deal with the Hazare camp failed.

Cautious stand

The NCP has maintained a cautious stand on Mr. Hazare's agitation. On Saturday, Mr. Pawar's nephew and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said the party was not against Mr. Hazare. “There are no two opinions that corruption must be cleaned up, and the Bill such as this [Lokpal] can be debated,” he told the media in Mumbai.