New Delhi: Hours after Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP Tariq Anwar resigned from the party, senior leader Praful Patel said it is very surprising that he has decided to quit Lok Sabha and party. Talking to news agency ANI, Patel said, “It is a sad day for us that our senior colleague has decided to quit Lok Sabha and also NCP. It’s very surprising because he has based his decision on an interview by Sharad Pawar to news channel wherein facts are very clear on Rafale.”

Anwar decision came in protest over party president Sharad Pawar’s statement defending Prime Minister Modi on the Rafael deal. Later, speaking to ANI, Anwar had said, “Our (NCP) national president Sharad Pawar indirectly gave a clean chit to PM, in a statement on Rafale deal. The Prime Minister is completely involved in the deal. The Opposition is demanding constitution of JPC for a probe in it. I’m upset with his statement.”

Earlier this week, Pawar, while speaking to a Marathi news channel, had said on the Rafale deal, “People do not have doubts over Prime Minister Modi’s intentions”. He had also said that the demand that all of the deal details be shared “didn’t make sense”. The statement was quoted by BJP leaders, including party president Amit Shah, to highlight Congress’ failure to find support on the issue. However, later NCP issued a statement that Pawar’s opinion need not be construed as his party’s clean chit to the PM. In fact, party spokesperson Nawab Malik reiterated the Congress demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the same.

Anwar, who represents Katihar, Bihar, in the current Lok Sabha MP, is considered a close aide of Pawar. Along with former LS Speaker PA Sangma, Anwar quit the Congress over Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin issue to form the NCP.

Meanwhile, the Rafale controversy took a new turn last week after Francois Hollande, who was French president when the Rs 58,000 crore deal was announced, was quoted as saying by French publication Mediapart that France was given “no choice” on selection of the Indian partner for Dassault and the Indian government proposed the name of Reliance as offset partner for the French aerospace giant.