2.15 pm: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached out to NCP chief Sharad Pawar and described him as a “great asset” to the government. “Sharad Pawar is a very valued colleague whose knowledge, wisdom and experience are a great asset to our government,” said the prime minister.
Pawar and Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel on Thursday boycotted the cabinet meeting evening chaired by the prime minister.
1.56pm: Congress President Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of a core Congress meeting in the wake of the latest crisis to hit the party. The meeting comes after a one on one discussion with NCP leader Sharad Pawar who reportedly offered to resign from his cabinet position because he was unhappy with the way matters were being run in the coalition.
Later Senior leader Praful Patel told the media that the party was indeed unhappy, adding that a final decision on their future within the coalition would be taken on Monday.
12.53pm: The Congress party has refused to comment on Praful Patel’s statement, saying that they did not wish to comment on their allies. The refusal to comment possibly comes in the wake of a scathing attack by Patel, where he accused some members of the Congress of maliciously leaking untrue and inappropriate rumours to the media.
“I am willing to publicly state that I am extremely pained that certain members of the Congress party are posturing as sources and making unnecessary ad inappropriate comments to the media”, he said.
12.20pm: Praful Patel has strongly attacked claims that Sharad Pawar was upset at the Congress refusal to make him the number two in the UPA coalition instead of AK Antony, but makes extremely strong arguments clearly aimed at reiterating Pawar’s seniority and his importance to the Congress party and UPA coalition.
“It is ridiculous to say Mr Sharad Pawar can’t be no 2 because he is a small coalition partner when he has been an integral part of the coalition so far. Mr Pawar was next to Pranab, even in UPA I because of his stature. Mr Pawar brings a lot to the table than just numbers and the Congress Party realizes that”, he said, adding “If Mr Pawar was not good enough to be number two, then why was he seated next to Pranab Mukherjee?”
12.15 pm: After the meeting at Sharad Pawar’s house, Praful Patel addressed the media and confirmed that although Sharad Pawar had indeed sent a communication to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the issue of resignation had never come up. “The issue is not about resignation at all. This was only a communication sent to the Prime Minister”, he said.
Patel said that their issues were more about the functioning of the UPA and the larger coalition, and the issue of resignation had not come up, adding that the communication had also been made with the 2014 general elections in mind.
Patel also dismissed reports that the rift between Pawar and the Congress was because Defence Minister AK Antony was to be made the number two in the government. “We are not petty to complain about a number two position. This was never the issue. Those suggesting it are the petty ones. Mr Sharad Pawar will never linger on such an issue”, he added.
Patel also accused certain elements within the Congress party of leaking “unreasonable and unnecessary comments to media as ‘sources’.
11.50am: The NCP meeting at party leader Sharad Pawar’s house has ended. Former aviation minister Praful Patel emerges out of Pawar’s residence, but refuses to speak to the throng of reporters gathered outside. However an announcement is likely soon.
11.32am: The main opposition BJP has not lost the opportunity to take a dig at the Congress party over the crisis with Sharad Pawar and the NCP. Speaking to the media senior BJP leader Balbir Punj said, “We are not surprised at all with these developments. UPA II is at war with itself. They treat both the opposition and their allies with pure arrogance”.
10.24am: Times Now, quoting sources from the Congress Party has said that the Congress has offered Sharad Pawar and the NCP a peace formula, hammered out over a series of meetings on Thursday night. The party has reportedly offered to set up a coordination committee for the running of the upcoming monsoon session in parliament.
The channel reported that the committee will comprise Pawar, AK Antony, and Sushil Kumar Shinde. The committee will be responsible into looking into the concerns of the allied parties that make up the UPA. The meeting at Pawar’s residence is reportedly being held to discuss whether or not to accept the Congress offer.
10.15am: A meeting of senior leaders of the NCP is now underway at Sharad Pawar’s New Delhi residence.
9.48am: Following his meeting with Sonia Gandhi, a meeting of senior NCP leaders will now convene at Sharad Pawar’s New Delhi residence. The meeting has been scheduled for 10 am. CNN IBN quoting sources, said the Congress party has agreed to accommodate a few of his demands.
9.30am: The meeting between Sharad Pawar and Congress President Sonia Gandhi has come to an end. The meeting which lasted half an hour, is likely to be followed by a meeting of all NCP leaders. Although there has been no official word on what was discussed at the meeting, the Times Now channel quoted sources as saying that Pawar had received assurances by Sonia Gandhi, and she had asked him not to escalate issues within the cabinet , reiterating that he is a valued ally.
Pawar is now likely to convene a meeting of NCP leaders to discuss what to do next. Former Aviation Minister Praful Patel who resigned along with Pawar, is said to have already left for Pawar’s house.
9.27am: Media sources say that apart from his meeting with Sonia Gandhi which is currently underway, Pawar is likely to meet with the Prime Minister later this evening. The Congress Core Group will also meet at 5.45pm today. ANI News quoting sources said, that the No 2 position in the government is not for Congress, as Pawar, Antony and the Leader of the House run the government when the Prime Minister is not in the country.
9.09am: Miffed NCP Chief Sharad Pawar is at a meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi, following a decision by both him and former aviation minister Praful Patel to resign from the cabinet.
The two senior officials sent in their resignations to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh late on Thursday evening. The prime minister is understood to have said he will not accept the resignations, sources told IANS. However CNN-IBN quoting sources, said the two had resigned from the cabinet.
The two ministers will not be attending office from Friday, but the party will continue in the alliance, the source added.
Meanwhile PTI said that Pawar had refused to comment on reports that the Prime Minister had called him in a bid to mollify him. He had also refused to answer questions on whether the two leaders had sent their resignation letters to the Prime Minister.
The Nationalist Congress Party, with which the Congress shares government in Maharashtra, is upset over the way in which the Congress has “denigrated and humiliated the coalition”, party spokesperson DP Tripathi told IANS.
The signs of trouble were apparent when Pawar and Patel boycotted the cabinet meeting Thursday evening chaired by the prime minister.
The unhappiness of the ally was rumoured to be over Agriculture Minister Pawar not being given the number two slot following the exit of Pranab Mukherjee.
The boycott of the cabinet meeting by the NCP was the first time in eight years, according to Tripathi.
With inputs from agencies