New Delhi: After the NDA resolved the recent crisis in Karnataka, the political corridors are facing another stand-off and this time with the ruling dispensation UPA.

The issue doing rounds is the actual bone of contention between the two allies- Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress, for the no.2 position in the Union Cabinet.

The much-hyped ‘no. 2 slot’ controversy may be the proximate reason that has fuelled the resentment among the NCP of being taken for granted by the Congress against the latter’s other allies including Mamata Banerjee’s TMC and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP, but the Party Chief Sharad Pawar appears to be fighting for even more bigger issues at both the Centre and his home state ‘Maharashtra’.

Confirming the stand, Pawar’s close aide and party spokesperson, DP Tripathi, had also said that the party chief wasn’t excessively obsessed about the “pecking order” in the Cabinet or his place in the hierarchy of power in the UPA dispensation but was rather more upset over several significant issues related to the coalition.

Here are some of the obvious reasons that are responsible for growing resentment among the NCP and creating rift between the two allies at a time when the Congress appears to be projecting UPA as united and strong on the pretext of the Presidential poll.

•    Pawar has stature, but no numbers to talk for him

At the Central level, even if Sharad Pawar holds a powerful stature with his rich political record of winning elections for more than four decades, but with his party’s poor show (only 9 MPs in the Lok Sabha) in the UPA, he is apparently the most unheard person in the government against his counterparts Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh Yadav.

There are more than half a dozen of other regional parties such as the Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress, DMK, AIADMK, Bahujan Samaj Party, Biju Janata Dal and the Shiv Sena who are distinctly stronger than Pawar’s NCP.

•    The family issues

Pawar wants to renegotiate the NCP-Congress power balance in Maharashtra to reap more political benefits. The NCP in Maharashtra is led by Pawar’s nephew and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. He (Ajit Pawar) wants to become the state Chief Minister and does not want to give any political advantage to the rivals in the 2014 assembly polls in Maharashtra. Clearly, the onus lies on the uncle (Pawar) to fulfill his nephew’s dream.

Secondly, Pawar wants his daughter and MP Supriya Sule to be inducted in the Union Ministry whenever it is reshuffled in future. The veteran leader has always been working harder to get Sule inducted in the cabinet but the case has been put on hold for long. Adding to Pawar’s displeasure over this is the presence of Agatha Sangma, the daughter of PA Sangma (who resigned from the NCP to contest presidential poll against UPA candidate), continues to be in the Ministry.

•    2014: Year of challenges for Pawar

Sharad Pawar faces dual challenges at the national and the state level in 2014 with the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra assembly elections on the cards. Fulfilling the dreams of nephew (Ajit Pawar) and establishing the NCP’s position at the Centre by improving its performance in the Lok Sabha polls are the toughest challenges in front of the NCP supremo.

•    Sangma’s exit from NCP

Pawar had established the NCP with an aim to convert it a political force and then encash the benefits through number game. But with only nine MPs in the Lok Sabha, the party stands marginalized at the national level.

The NCP is in more tougher times as its one of the founding member PA Sangma left the party to contest the Presidential poll against UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee.

•    Corruption cases against NCP leaders

According to highly placed sources, the NCP is worried over the graft cases and investigations against several NCP ministers in Maharashtra.

The ministers under scanner include Ajit Pawar and senior ministers Chaggan Bhujbal and Sunil Tatkare.

Pawar’s man Friday in Delhi, Praful Patel has also been under fire in a CAG report on aircraft acquisition when he was the union civil aviation minister.

Probably these factors are believed to be responsible for the cracks in relationship between Congress and NCP. Moreover, Sharad Pawar, a strong regional leader, has his own political ambitions in the central politics which has now come out in the open.

Sonakshi Kishore/JPN

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