The Samajwadi Party on Saturday refused an offer by the United Progressive Alliance to join the Cabinet, saying its first priority was to prepare for the coming Lok Sabha elections.
The offer was made to the SP in the first meeting of the coordination committee it had formed with the UPA in the wake of the Manmohan Singh government winning the July 22 trust vote its the support.
The SP is a key political player in Uttar Pradesh, and the only party that at present is seen strong enough in the state to counter its arch rival ruling Bahujan Samaja Party headed by Mayawati, whose pan-India ambitions are also a cause of worry to the UPA leader Congress.
The six-member panel's meeting, held at the official 7, Race Course residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was attended by Dr Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A K Antony.
The SP side was represented by its chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and general secretary Amar Singh.
Briefing mediapersons after the meeting, Minister of State in the PMO Prithviraj Chauhan and SP general secretary Amar Singh said the party refused the UPA's offer as it wanted to concentrate on the coming elections.
Chauhan handed out a statement to the media, which said the meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere and the SP reitreated its commitment to work in coordination with the UPA and give its full support to it.
The statement said general policy issues were discussed in the meeting.
Amar Singh said his party also discussed the issue of Special Economic Zone.
According to sources, the meeting discussed cooperation between the ruling UPA and the SP on several key issues, including the Indo-US nuclear deal, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
The issue regarding the sharing of seats for the Lok Sabha polls had reportedly figured in the meeting.
However, the issue would be discussed in detail in a meeting between senior SP and Congress leaders on Monday, Amar Singh said.
The panel, a replica of the erstwhile UPA-Left coordination committee, was constituted in recognition of the role played by the SP to ensure the survival of the Dr Singh government.
It was tasked to ensure smooth coordination between the Congress and the SP, who have decided to forge alliance in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The panel was constituted to keep the SP involved in the affairs of the government while remaining outside it.
The ruling alliance had a similar coordination panel with the Left before they parted company over the nuclear deal on July 9.