Pawar, Patel skip Union Cabinet meet

Pawar, Patel skip Union Cabinet meet

Pawar, Patel skip Union Cabinet meet

 Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar was conspicuous by his absence at Thursday’s Union Cabinet meeting.

He is understood to have offered to resign amid speculation about the widening rift between the Congress and NCP, over the new pecking order in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s team after Pranab Mukherjee’s resignation as finance minister.

Praful Patel, also of the NCP, who holds the Heavy Industries portfolio, skipped the meeting as well. The absence of Pawar and Patel indicated that the party had “some issues” with the Congress, NCP general secretary D P Tripathi told mediapersons.

Though the NCP did not officially make public the reason for Pawar and Patel’s absence, sources in the party said they were disappointed by the way the Congress treated its most trusted ally, which, unlike the Trinamool Congress, stood by it through thick and thin. A senior party leader said that the two Union Ministers mi­ght even stay away from their respective offices on Friday.

Speculations are rife that Pawar was upset on being denied the number two slot in the Union Cabinet following Mukherjee’s resignation.

Tripathi pointed out that it was for the first time in the last eight years that his party’s representatives had stayed away from the Union Cabinet meeting.

The NCP has been a constituent of the UPA since 2004. Tripathi, however, added that it will not be appropriate to say that Pawar and Patel “boycotted” the meeting held at the prime minister’s residence.

However, he declined to reveal why the two union ministers decided to skip the meeting.
Patel, however, sought to play down his absence.

Pawar sat next to the prime minister in the Cabinet meeting on July 4, the first after Mukherjee resigned as Finance Minister following his nomination as the UPA’s candidate for the Presidential poll.
However, Defence Minister A K Anthony took the number two’s seat in the next meeting held on July 12. This reportedly upset Pawar, who was vying for the number two berth, as he had been the next senior-most member of the Union Cabinet after Mukherjee.

The NCP chief did not attend the UPA meeting on July 14, but later welcomed the coalition’s decision to nominate Hamid Ansari for re-election to the post of Vice-President. He also attended Wednesday’s lunch hosted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

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