New Delhi : The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) standoff continued Monday with the latter saying it will continue to be an “integral part” of the UPA but will stay away from any government function till it takes a final decision on the future of their alliance.
“We will not attend any government function till the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) issues are resolved,” NCP leader and Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel told reporters.
As part of their decision, NCP ministers did not attend Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s farewell dinner for outgoing President Pratibha Patil, though party chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Patel were present at a send-off for her earlier in parliament.
Patel denied that Pawar was concerned over not getting the Number 2 position in the union cabinet.
The NCP’s grouse is that it was “not consulted” on key policy decisions at the central and state level in Maharashtra, where the two parties are in a coalition, and there is a lack of coordination with the Congress.
The Congress sought to downplay the rift.
“Such situations keep arising in coalition politics and they can be resolved through dialogue,” party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters.
“Let’s hope for the best,” he said.
Patel, however, reiterated that the party would not disrupt either the central or the Maharashtra government.
“We are supporting UPA as a core ally and will continue to support this government till 2014,” said Patel adding: “We are committed to the coalition in Maharashtra.”
But while the NCP indicated it would not rock the UPA boat, the party kept the Congress guessing and said it would finalise its stand on the alliance by Wednesday.
“We feel that before we take a final decision, they (NCP legislators from Maharashtra) must be taken on board and most likely tomorrow (Tuesday) and no later than day after (Wednesday), this matter will be put to rest,” said Patel.
In Mumbai, state Congress leaders went into a huddle Monday to discuss the situation.
The meeting was attended by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, state Congress president Manikrao Thakre and other senior party leaders.
Thakre and some other leaders said the Congress-NCP coordination committee should discuss all the pending issues, a party official said, adding the committee meeting could be convened soon after the assembly’s monsoon session gets over later this week.
The rift between the two parties broke out after the presidential poll last week with Pawar sending a communication to the prime minister conveying the party’s unhappiness. The NCP had threatened to pull out of government and provide it only outside support.
Sources said Pawar has told Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, whom he met in quick succession Thursday night and Friday morning, that the NCP would like to keep out of the government and focus on its growth for the 2014 general elections.
Though the Congress leadership has sought to mollify Pawar, the NCP leader has remained unswayed.