NCP absent from UPA meet, backs Ansari for VP poll

New Delhi: Apparently piqued over the new pecking order in the government, NCP on Saturday stayed away from the UPA meeting on Vice Presidential poll candidate but made it clear that it was wholeheartedly supporting a second term for incumbent Hamid Ansari.

NCP chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar welcomed the candidature of Ansari as Vice President and said his party is part of the decision taken by UPA leadership which announced Ansari`s candidature for the post.

"Even though I was not present for the meeting in Delhi, there was a consultation process with other constituent partners including NCP. In the deliberation, NCP has decided that Ansari`s candidature is agreeable," Pawar told PTI in Mumbai.

"I appeal to all members of Parliament to support Ansari`s candidature. His capability has been established beyond doubt in his first tenure as Vice President and Chairman of Rajya Sabha," Pawar said.

NCP sources said the party kept away from the meet as it was unhappy about the way Congress had "tampered" with the precedence of hierarchy in the cabinet even without discussing the issue with the party.

Only two days ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh designated Defence Minister A K Antony as the No. 2 in his cabinet, signaling the new pecking order in UPA government after Pranab Mukherjee`s exit.

The new chain of command became evident at Thursday`s meeting of the union cabinet where Antony sat next to the Prime Minister in the seat vacated by Mukherjee ahead of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. Pawar, who is NCP chief, was earlier occupying the seat next to Mukherjee and Antony used to seat after him.

This is for the first time since UPA`s assumption of power eight years ago that NCP has kept away from a meeting of the alliance.

Asked about the absence of the party representative at the meet, NCP spokesman D P Tripathi merely said Pawar had asked Union Minister Praful Patel to attend the meeting but he could not do so due to a family function.