Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and his party's Praful Patel have both reportedly threatened to resign; they skipped a cabinet meeting last evening as a sign of their displeasure with the Congress, and will not be at work today. Mr Pawar said "no comment" to NDTV when asked if he had resigned.
A top source in his party, the Nationalist Congress Party or NCP, said "The Congress does not know how to run a coalition government." Mr Patel denied that he had sent his resignation letter to the Prime Minister. But sources say the trouble runs deep; the NCP believes the Congress takes decisions unilaterally. Sources say that certain projects with which Mr Pawar was involved with has not been cleared by the government.
The NCP has nine Lok Sabha MPs and is a member of the UPA, the ruling coalition at the centre run by the Congress. It also partners with the Congress in the state government in Maharashtra.
Mr Pawar has been upset with the fact that after Pranab Mukherjee resigned from the cabinet, Defence Minister AK Antony has been seated next to the Prime Minister at cabinet meetings, reserved for the second-most senior member of the government. He has also reportedly been angry about not being included in the high-level cabinet committee on security. Sources in the NCP say that it's not about who is perceived as or treated as No. 2 in the cabinet, but about the Congress not sharing plans on this or larger issues.
Sources in the NCP say that the party is tired of being treated like "a rubber stamp."
That is why, they say, Mr Pawar and Mr Patel did not attend the UPA session called to announce Hamid Ansari as the coalition's candidate for vice-president (Mr Pawar, however, made it clear that his party supports Mr Ansari's nomination).
Mr Pawar was present at Sonia Gandhi's lunch, held on Wednesday for all MPs from the UPA a day ahead of voting for the President of India.
Offers to quit the cabinet by Mr Patel or him will be read by their critics largely as posturing, or as an attempt to make a play for important posts before a cabinet reshuffle, expected before the monsoon session of Parliament begins on August 8.
Mamata Banerjee and the DMK, all important members of the UPA, have in the past blamed the Congress for poor coordination and for taking its partners for granted.