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NCP in damage limitation mode after two party leaders quit over Pawar’s Rafale remarks

Senior NCP leader Praful Patel said party president Sharad Pawar has not given a "clean chit to anybody" in Rafale deal.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: September 28, 2018 10:34:27 pm
Tariq Anwar quits NCP over Sharad Pawar's 'clean chit' to PM Modi; Congress says he is welcome to return Tariq Anwar said he left aggrieved by Pawar’s “clean chit” to PM Modi in the ongoing controversy surrounding the purchase of Rafale fighter jets.

The resignation of NCP’s founding member Tariq Anwar and general secretary Munaf Hakim following party supremo Sharad Pawar’s purported remarks favouring Prime Minister Narendra Modi over Rafale deal has left the party scrambling for damage control.

Announcing that he is giving up his Lok Sabha membership, Anwar said he left aggrieved by Pawar’s “clean chit” to PM Modi in the ongoing controversy surrounding the purchase of Rafale fighter jets. His move comes a day after media reports quoted Pawar having told a Marathi news channel that he did not think people had doubts over the prime minister’s intentions in the Rafale deal.

Pawar’s reported statement was lauded by BJP chief Amit Shah who asked Congress president Rahul Gandhi to take a cue from his ally and place national interests above party politics.

The Congress and other opposition parties have been targetting the BJP-led NDA government over the Rafale deal alleging corruption and crony capitalism. The government has denied the charges.

Lok Sabha MP and Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule said her father was misquoted. “The thing which he (Pawar) is being quoted that he has given a clean chit to Narendra Modi is not true. Those who are saying so have either not heard or seen his interview or they are twisting it intentionally,” Sule was quoted as saying by ANI.

She said that people conveniently chose to ignore three things. “One, there should be a clarification about the price escalation of the jets. Two, he demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee to conduct an inquiry on Rafale. And, three, he talked about BJP’s double standards about JPC–they demanded for Bofors and now they are avoiding it for Rafale,” she said.

Amid speculation about the veteran Bihar leader’s next move ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Congress said Anwar was “welcome” to return to the party from where he started his political career. Anwar was the Bihar Congress president in the 1980s and had represented his current parliamentary constituency Katihar as a Congress MP for several times, before he joined hands with Pawar and deceased Meghalaya leader P A Sangma to form the NCP in 1999. The NCP later allied with the Congress and Anwar served as a Union minister in the UPA-II government.

His resignation is seen as a politically significant development for possible alignments in Bihar, where Congress, NCP and RJD have been part of the ‘grand alliance or Mahagathbandhan’ against the BJP and its allies. While the Mahagathbandhan camp leaders lauded Anwar’s decision, with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) urging Pawar to review his stand on the issue, the JD(U), headed by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and an ally of the BJP, termed Anwar’s move opportunistic and aimed at “greener pastures”.

In a statement after making the announcement before journalists in Katihar, 67-year-old Anwar said he was resigning from the posts of the NCP’s national general secretary and as its leader in the Lok Sabha, besides giving up the party’s primary membership and vacating his parliamentary seat.

Following the suit, Hakim said he had quit the primary membership of the party and claimed it was “difficult” to defend its image after Pawar “supported” PM Modi in the Rafale fighter jet issue. Hakim, a former chairman of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission, told PTI more NCP workers might follow suit.

Senior NCP leader Praful Patel said party president Sharad Pawar has not given a “clean chit to anybody” in Rafale deal. “Pawar saheb has not given a clean chit to anybody. The NCP insists on a JPC probe in Rafale deal and demands that the price of the fighter jet be made public,” Patel told mediapersons.

“It is sad to note that after working with us for so many years, he (Anwar) decided to quit without even informing us. It is very surprising because he has based his decision on an interview by Pawar to a news channel,” Patel said.

Stating that he completely disagreed with Pawar’s version, the Bihar leader said Pawar has shattered the faith of countrymen in the Opposition. He alleged the prime minister is fully involved in the Rafale deal and it was also substantiated by former French President Francois Hollande, referring to his reported remarks about France being left with no option in Dassault selecting Reliance Defence as an offset partner as part of the multi-billion dollar deal.

Lauding Anwar’s step, senior Congress leader Prem Chand Mishra said his party would be keenly watching his next political move and if he chooses to return to the party (Congress), he would be most welcome.

With inputs from PTI, ANI

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