New Delhi: The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Friday put the UPA on notice with party chief Sharad Pawar and member Praful Patel staying away from their ministries, albeit stopping short of formally resigning from the Cabinet.
In a damage control exercise, a worried Prime Minister called Pawar a "valued colleague".
However, the three attempts made over the past 24 hours to reach out to the NCP chief have failed to placate him.
NCP sources, however, say it's not just the denial of the number two slot which has angered the party, but also the manner in which it has been overruled on issues like appointing governors and membership of other key bodies.
In the letter addressed to both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, Pawar wrote, "We are a small party. It doesn't confer stature or respectability. So we need to build for future. Therefore, we need to devote more time to build up our party for future."
The letter also suggested that the NCP's problems may not be just in Delhi, but in Mumbai too. Several NCP ministers, most notably Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister and Pawar's nephew Ajit Pawar, feel that their actions are under the scanner ever since Prithviraj Chavan became the Chief Minister.
The Congress has another reason to be worried. Despite the NCP's small numbers in Parliament, Pawar wields tremendous clout. He has friends across the political spectrum which can come in handy if the government wants the Opposition on board on key economic reforms.
Pawar may have limited options, but the revolt only shows how UPA-II is struggling with its coalition dharma.
The result is that even the one party which was seen as a reliable partner appears to be losing patience with the Congress's 'ekla chalo re' mindset.