New Delhi: Unhappy over party leader Sharad Pawar being denied number two position in the government, NCP ministers on Thursday skipped the meeting of Union Cabinet here, accusing the Congress of showing "indecency" and "pettiness" towards allies.

Sulking Agriculture Minister Pawar as well as Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel skipped the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh amid a row over the pecking order in the government that has relegated the NCP chief to the third position.

While the Cabinet meeting took place at the Prime Minister's residence at 6 PM, Pawar was closeted with Patel and Tripathi at the same time at his residence.
The row erupted after Mukherjee, who held the de facto post of the number two, quit the government to contest the Presidential poll.

"For the first time in eight years, Mr Pawar and Mr Praful Patel did not go to the Cabinet meeting," NCP spokesman D P Tripathi told reporters.

Asked whether the pecking order was the issue, he claimed that Pawar had never sought any position and the "issues (for skipping the meeting) were much higher".

Queried about the future course of action by NCP, he merely said, "We will discuss in the party."

NCP sources, however, stated that the party was unhappy at the way the Congress was running the coalition.

Accusing the Congress of being on "collision course while running the coalition", a party source alleged that Congress was showing "indecency and pettiness. There was some arrangement. They disturbed it."

The reference was to Pawar having the third place in the pecking order after the Prime Minister and Mukherjee, then Finance Minister. The party feels that after Mukherjee left the government to contest the Presidential poll, Pawar should have been automatically elevated to the number two position.

NCP spokesperson D P Tripathi said he was not aware of Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel having any plan to resign from the cabinet.

He, however, accepted there has been a lack of coordination between UPA allies and reiterated his party's stand that there should be a coordination committee for regular consultations. "We have also maintained how to run a coalition government," he said.

Tripathi said the NCP leaders will meet and discuss the latest developments and only then will he be able to comment on the issue.

"One thing I can confirm is that UPA is intact. There is no crisis of confidence... We are an integral part of UPA. We have just voted in the presidential elections," he said.

The NCP spokesperson maintained his party is preparing for a "historic support" for Vice Presidential candidate Hamid Ansari.


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