NCP sends firm message, boycotts PM’s dinner

The much-anticipated meeting between the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar with his party colleagues to discuss the ongoing rift with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) did not change the party stand from the last few days.

The meeting held at Pawar's 6, Janpath, residence was touted as an ice-breaker for the NCP-UPA spat. But, nothing much seemed to change after the meeting. The NCP leader and heavy industries minister Praful Patel told the waiting media that his party was still an ally of the government but would abstain from attending official functions. 'We continue to be an integral part of the UPA and our relationship with it will continue till 2014. We are supporting the UPA as a core ally and will continue to support this government till the very end,' he said.

At the farewell tea party for the outgoing president Pratibha Patil, the Congress president Sonia Gandhi reportedly asked Patel 'to do something' to end the crisis between the NCP and the Congress. Sources say that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up Pawar before the NCP meeting and requested him to attend the UPA dinner at night to bid President Patil adieu. Sources say that Pawar wants to get a plum cabinet post during the reshuffle expected in September.

However, he indicated that the matter may be resolved by Wednesday. He said on Monday, 'We feel that before we take a final decision, [the NCP legislators from Maharashtra] must be taken on board and most likely tomorrow and no later than day after this matter will be put to rest.'

As in the past, the Congress continued to downplay the crisis. Its general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said, 'Such situations keep arising in coalition politics. They can be resolved through dialogue. Let's hope for the best.'
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