NCP unhappy, but will not walk out of UPA

Mumbai: NCP today said it would remain a partner in the ruling UPA coalition but flagged displeasure over its views not being considered in the government and "lack of coordination" with the Congress both at the Centre and in Maharashtra where they share power.

The Sharad Pawar-led party, which had decided to pull out of the UPA government in protest against the way the party was being treated by Congress, said the functioning of the government has not been according to their expectation. "We are in UPA and will continue to be a part of it in the future as an ally. Central government gets our support every time and will continue to get it in future," senior NCP leader Praful Patel told reporters at the airport here on his arrival from Delhi with the NCP supremo.

Patel said NCP was of the view that a progressive and secular government should stay but lamented that his party`s views were "not considered". "The functioning of the government has not been according to our expectation. Our views are not considered," he said after a meeting Pawar had with top party leaders of Maharashtra including his nephew and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, state NCP chief Madhukar Pichad, Home Minister R R Patil and others.

NCP, a stable ally of Congress for the last eight years, created a crisis of sorts for the government when Pawar, Minister for Agriculture, sent a communication to the Prime Minister expressing his decision to quit along with Patel, Minister for Heavy Industry. Patel said the situation in Maharashtra, where it is part of the Congress-led ruling alliance, was "no different".

"Unfortunately, the functioning has been without coordination. The situation is same in Maharashtra," Patel said, adding party leaders from the state had told Pawar about this. "We want the mechanism of coordination to be put back in place so that important issues are discussed and decisions taken. With this we can provide a good government. Our leaders here say that due to the lack of coordination decision-making has been affected," he said.

Patel said, "In Maharashtra, NCP is equal partner in government and coordination needed to be strengthened to improve governance." When asked to comment on Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan`s statement last night that his equation with state NCP leaders was excellent, Patel said, "Individuals were not discussed. We want effective coordination."

While rejecting allegations of inadequate coordination between the two allies in Maharashtra, Chavan had yesterday said, "Coordination Committee meetings have taken place…. If they are unhappy about specific decisions, they can discuss it with us." The NCP in Maharashtra is said to be irked by Chavan`s decision to bring out a `white paper` on irrigation projects.

The irrigation department is headed by NCP`s Sunil Tatkare. There have been allegations that the irrigated area has grown by a measly 0.1 per cent over a decade despite pumping in a whopping Rs 50,000 crore. NCP`s PWD minister Bhujbal is also facing allegations of corruption in construction of Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi.

A meeting of senior NCP leaders has been convened in Delhi on Monday where the party`s future course of action will be decided and communicated to the Congress, Patel said apparently referring to the decision to pull out of the UPA government. He said NCP has, however, already conveyed to the Congress leadership that it will remain part of the UPA.

Rejecting suggestions that Pawar was miffed at not being accorded the No. 2 status in the UPA government, Patel said, "Even though we are a small party, UPA should take benefit of Pawar`s stature and seniority. The NCP wants the UPA government and the coalition government in Maharashtra to do well and complete their full term".