As stand-off with Congress continues, NCP to meet on Monday to decide future course

Even as a member of the Congress Core Group that met on Friday evening at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence to discuss the crisis arising out of a rift with the party’s most reliable ally, Nationalist Congress Party, told journalists that “all matters stand settled,” the NCP decided to pull out of the UPA government and support from outside.

NCP leaders Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel informed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that they were resigning from the government to protest against the way the Congress had treated their party. In a separate communication, they wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, informing her that the NCP would support the government from outside.

Meanwhile, in the past 24 hours — after it became known that the NCP was upset with the Congress — the party has gone into overdrive to mollify its junior partner from Maharashtra.

Mr. Pawar met Dr. Singh on Thursday evening and Ms. Gandhi on Friday morning, and both urged him not to press his resignation. Through the day, the Prime Minister made a conciliatory statement about Mr Pawar, one that was echoed a few hours later by Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi.

“Sharad Pawar is a very valued colleague of mine,” Dr. Singh told PTI, stressing, “whose knowledge, wisdom and experience are a great asset to our government.” Mr. Dwivedi said: “Mr. Pawar is a very senior and respected colleague and leader, whom we hold in high esteem.” He added that he was sure that whatever differences existed between the two parties would be resolved through dialogue.

In the letters to the Prime Minister and Ms. Gandhi, Mr. Pawar has said the NCP would like to keep out of the government and focus on its growth since it is small, and elections are approaching. In his discussions with the two leaders, he raised lack of coordination within the UPA and the fact that the Congress did not think it necessary to discuss governance issues with its allies.

After his meeting with Ms. Gandhi, Mr. Pawar met senior party leaders.

Later, Mr. Praful Patel told journalists that the NCP was “unhappy with some aspects” of the functioning of the government and the larger coalition, and this was conveyed to the Congress leadership. He stressed that UPA-II was entering the last two years of its term, and the NCP wanted the government to be “more decisive” and “more committed” to the issues before the people. The NCP leader, however, rubbished reports that Mr. Pawar was denied the number two slot in the government. The NCP will meet again on Monday to discuss its future course of action — giving the Congress the weekend to come up with a solution.

Meanwhile, sources in the NCP said there was no single issue that led to the two parties coming to breaking point: the sense is that as the UPA looks like a sinking ship, the NCP needs to either chart its own course so that it can stay afloat — and improve on its numbers — in 2014, when the next Lok Sabha elections are due, or shake the Congress out of its stupor to act “decisively” and give ballast to the NCP. The party is also upset that while allies such as the Trinamool Congress have forced the government on many occasions to reverse its decisions, the NCP’s cooperation has never been acknowledged.

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