Baba effect behind Sharad Pawar power play
By Santwana Bhattacharya - NEW DELHI
Published: 22nd Jul 2012 10:59:37 AM
No sooner had the Congress’ prince-in-waiting Rahul Gandhi announced that he’s ready to take on a ‘pro-active’ role in the government as well as his party, an unexpected storm hit the UPA government. NCP heavyweight and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, a rock-solid ally of the Congress-led UPA coalition for the last eight years, sent in his resignation from the Union Cabinet.
This was at around 5.30 pm on July 19, barely half-an-hour before the Union Cabinet was to meet. According to well-placed sources, of the two letters that Pawar shot off to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, one carried elaboration—a dispassionate ‘political’ reasoning behind his move, while the other was a short resignation from the Union Cabinet, sending the Congress leadership and the government into a tailspin.
Around 6.10 p.m., Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel rushed to Pawar’s residence to appease the Maratha strongman. His trusted lieutenant, Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel, who too had followed Pawar’s footsteps, was called in to persuade them to withdraw the resignation.
As the issue-at-hand remained unresolved, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh stepped to douse the fire. Pawar, however, politely turned down the Congress president’s offer of a meeting late on Thursday night. Finally, the two met on Friday, but Pawar stuck to his guns.
Even when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (with whom Pawar shares a “comfortable equation’’) spoke to Pawar, he reiterated that the decision to quit was taken in consultation with his party colleagues and he cannot take any steps unilaterally. It was almost on the Prime Minister’s express request that Pawar agreed to call a meeting of the NCP on Monday; the Prime Minister had pressed for an earlier decision though.
To show that he was ready to change the style functioning of his government, the Prime Minister promptly gave an appointment to NCP leader and Rajya Sabha MP D P Tripathi, on Saturday (apparently to discuss some issues relating to Nepal.