The NCP has served a 48-hour ultimatum to the Congress to respond to its list of demands if the party wants to end the stalemate at the Centre and Maharashtra.
A high-profile portfolio for union industries minister Praful Patel, Rajya Sabha deputy chairman post for Tariq Anwar, roll back of the food securities bill and governor’s post for an NCP candidate are among the NCP’s demands informally conveyed to Congress leaders.
By setting a deadline, the NCP is making a desperate attempt to get firm commitment from the Congress on several issues. NCP president Sharad Pawar wants a categorical commitment from Congress president Sonia Gandhi and prime minister Manmohan Singh on enhancing the NCP’s role in the UPA government and mending the functioning of chief minister of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan.
The Congress, meanwhile, maintained that all disputes in a coalition government are resolved through dialogue. Congress spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi said, “Let’s hope for the best.”
However, by staying away from the dinner hosted by the prime minister, Pawar has ensured that the rift stays in the limelight. And the stand-off is likely to continue for at least two more days as Praful Patel, “We were to hold a meeting with our Maharashtra leaders to take a call on the relevant issues… But our colleagues could not come here as they were busy. Now, this meeting with be held either on Tuesday or Wednesday.”
The uneasy relations between the two parties were exposed when Pawar and Patel skipped the cabinet meeting last Thursday. The reason: Pawar was not accorded the No 2 position in the cabinet following Mukherjee’s departure.
Later, other issues came to the fore; mainly, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s way of functioning in Maharashtra.
Pawar’s move to complain against Chavan’s working is being perceived as a step forward to mount pressure on the Centre to consider a change of guard in Maharashtra.
However, the Congress appears to have remained non-committal urging Chavan to address the NCP’s concerns immediately. According to AICC functionary, “The Centre has already urged Chavan to resolve the conflict. But the question of changing the chief minister under NCP pressure is being ruled out at this moment.”
The NCP is building up pressure through rebel Congress to dislodge Chavan who is not willing to blindly clear the mega-proposals of the NCP in Maharashtra.