When Congress party president Sonia Gandhi was fire fighting to keep the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in order, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar landed in Mumbai to set his own house in order.
Whether by design or coincidence, Pawar stayed away from the crisis following withdrawal of the Trinamool Congress from the Centre, reckoning his services would be sorted out as he has established himself as the ring leader of the third front.
While Pawar spend the evening at Nehru Centre in Worli to pull up the under performing ministers and assess the alleged seriousness of the scams of public works department minister Chhagan Bhujbal, water resources minister Sunil Tatkare et al, he simultaneously used the occasion to escalate the bargaining powers at the Centre.
The buzz was that NCP was seeking the minister of state berth for Tariq Anwar in place of Agatha Sangma. Also, there is a move to shift Bhujbal to the Centre as a replacement to Purno Sangma in the organisation.
However, their demand for a better portfolio for Union minister for heavy industries Praful Patel was uncertain till late evening.
A source said: “Whether it is at Centre or state, the party is going to escalate its bargaining powers.” This was evident as chief minister Prithviraj Chavan went the extra mile to suggest that the CMO has not given permission to the anti-corruption bureau to probe against Bhujbal.
Chavan’s attempt to mend fences with Pawar indicated that Congress cannot afford to lose NCP now. “I will be meeting Pawar next week,” he said.
On the home front, Pawar will use the state cabinet reshuffle to make effective changes among the cabinet ministers representing the NCP.
The day was marked with hectic parleys as the Opposition monitored the developments in state and Centre. While BJP president Nitin Gadkari indicated that the UPA’s downfall has begun, the possibility of moving a no-confidence motion was ruled out.
But the opposition kept asking, “Why is the NCP, which is being ill-treated by the Congress, not withdrawing support?” The teaser the opposition parties in the state are hurling at Pawar is with an ulterior motive to destabilise the DF government.