Signs of thaw,NCP puts off final decision

Signs of thaw,NCP puts off final decision

Standoff: Cong ‘agreeable’ to coordination mechanism,Agatha Sangma quits as minister

The Congress is learnt to be “agreeable” to setting up the ‘coordination mechanism’ that the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) seeks,brightening chances of an end to the current standoff between the allies. The NCP,however,is undecided over whether to follow the same approach towards its partner at both the Centre and in Maharashtra.

Union minister Agatha Sangma today sent her resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and her party chief Sharad Pawar. NCP sources said her resignation would be accepted irrespective of the final outcome of the tussle with the Congress.

Agatha upset the NCP leadership by canvassing for her father P A Sangma as the NDA’s candidate for president. She was not available for comment.

In line with its decision to stay away from government functions until matters with the Congress are resolved,the NCP skipped the Prime Minister’s farewell dinner for President Pratibha Patil this evening. At a meeting of the NCP working committee earlier,leaders could not agree on whether to pull out of the UPA government.


Leaders from Maharashtra were said to have argued that if the NCP walked out at the Centre,it must do the same in Maharashtra,given that the partners have been at loggerheads there. While NCP ministers have faced allegations,the Congress has either looked away or tacitly encouraged the charges,the Maharashtra leaders said.

Emerging from the meeting,Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel said further consultations would be held with Maharashtra leaders,and a decision was likely to be arrived at tomorrow and “no later than the day after tomorrow”.

In Parliament’s central hall,Congress president Sonia Gandhi reportedly asked Patel to “do something” about the stalemate — the remark was,however,said to have been made in jest. Sonia will head the proposed ‘coordination mechanism’ of UPA allies,in case it is set up.

“As far as the UPA is concerned,we have made it clear that we are a part of the UPA and will continue to support the government and the UPA till the very end,” Patel said. NCP general secretary D P Tripathi denied Maharashtra was the core issue: “The issue is not about Maharashtra,it is about rashtra.”

Patel accused “sections of the Congress” of “maligning” his party. “The NCP is as committed as the Congress to providing good government and clean government in Maharashtra. Sections of the Congress are spreading canards to malign the NCP.” He appealed to the Congress leadership to “pull up” these leaders.

Patel said he agreed with Defence Minister A K Antony that all members in the union cabinet were equal,and that there was no ‘senior’ or ‘junior’ minister. “Sharad Pawar is not seeking the chair next to the Prime Minister. Current standoff is not a ploy to seek anything.”

The Congress sought to play down the rift. AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said,“Such situations keep arising in coalition politics. These things are generally resolved through talks and mutual understanding. Let us hope for the best.”

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