Pawar Meets Sonia

New Dehi, Jul 20 (PTI): Sulking NCP leader Sharad Pawar, who is believed to have resigned from the Union Cabinet aggrieved over a variety of issues, today met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Pawar drove down to 10 Janpath apparently to discuss various issues including Congress' treatment of its allies.

Pawar and NCP leader Praful Patel were yesterday believed to have resigned from the Union Cabinet upset over a variety of issues including no 2 slot for Pawar.

Gandhi's meeting with Pawar comes ahead of the Congress Core Group meeting this evening which is expected to take stock of the situation.

Pawar, a former Chief Minister and one of the senior members of the Cabinet, is also believed to be hurt over the lack of consultations by Congress with allies, including NCP, and its reluctance to include the party in crucial Cabinet panels like Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) or even being considered for the post of the Leader of the House in Lok Sabha following the resignation of Pranab Mukherjee.

After presenting a picture of unity till the end of polling in Presidential election yesterday, Pawar, Agriculture Minister and Patel, Heavy Industries Minister, had kept away from the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and instead met in the house of Pawar at the same time with some other party leaders.

The trigger for NCP's sulk appears to be denial of no 2 slot in the cabinet to Pawar which has apparently been given Defence Minister A K Antony.

Pawar, a senior leader, had been a Maharashtra Chief Minister thrice, was Defence Minister in the P V Narasimha Rao cabinet and was once even considered in the race for Prime Ministership.

NCP is also said to be miffed over Congress' attitude of not consulting them on issues in UPA.

The party is also apparently unhappy that Pawar has not been made a member of the high-powered CCS which includes only Congress representatives and was worried that it may passed over on the choice of the Leader of the House that will arise when Lok Sabha meets for its monsoon session next month.

There was no confirmation from either the government or from NCP whether Pawar and Patel offered to resign or actually resigned.

There are reports that Pawar and Patel would not attend their offices today in further pressure on Congress to take note of their concerns and to concede their demands.

Pawar had declined to comment on reports that he and Praful Patel had sent in their resignation to the Prime Minister to convey their unhappiness over the way the party was being treated by the Congress.

Asked about reports that the Prime Minister had called him in a bid to mollify him, Pawar had told PTI "no comments".

Similar was his response to questions on whether the two leaders had sent their resignation letters to the Prime Minister.

NCP spokesman D P Tripathi had strongly denied reports of resignation by Pawar and Patel.

The Agriculture Minister who sat in the No. 2 seat in the first Cabinet meeting after Mukherjee's resignation but in the next meeting the seat was taken by Defence Minister and senior Congress leader A K Antony.

This was interpreted as Congress' way of sending a message that Antony was the virtual No. 2 in the government.


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