Pawar, Patel quit Cabinet; UPA in crisis

NEW DELHI: Plunging the UPA government into a crisis, NCP leaders Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel reportedly resigned from the Union Cabinet.

The two Nationalist Congress Party leaders sent in their resignations to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh late on Thursday evening. The prime minister is understood to have said he will not accept it.

However sources insist that the two had resigned from the Cabinet.

The NCP is apparently miffed over a host of issues, including the number 2 slot for Pawar and the Congress's highhandedness while dealing with its partners.

When Pawar was asked about the prime minister calling him to mollify him, he is reported to have said, "No comments". He didn't deny or confirm the development, lending further credibility to the buzz that all was not well between the Congress and the NCP.

Pawar, who is the Agriculture Minister in the Union Cabinet, sat in the No. 2 seat in the first Cabinet meeting after President-aspirant Pranab Mukherjee's resignation. However, in the very next meeting the seat was taken by Defence Minister and senior Congress leader A K Antony.

This was seen as the Congress's way of sending a message to Pawar that it was AK Antony who was the No. 2 in the government.

An aggrieved Pawar met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Friday, apparently to discuss various issues, including the way Congress deals with its allies.

Reports say that Pawar, a tghree-time Maharasthra chief minister and one of the senior members of the Cabinet, is also believed to be hurt over the lack of consultations by Congress with allies and its reluctance to include the party in crucial Cabinet panels like Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) or even being considered for the post of the Leader of the House in Lok Sabha following the resignation of Pranab Mukherjee.

There are reports that Pawar and Patel would not attend their offices on Friday to put more pressure on Congress.