NCP general secretary Munaf Hakim on Friday said he had quit the primary membership of the party and claimed it was “difficult” to defend its image after Sharad Pawar “supported” Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Rafale fighter jet issue.

Pawar, speaking to a television channel on Wednesday, had said that people “do not have doubts” over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intentions when talking about the Rafale deal.

Hakim, a former chairman of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission, told PTI on Friday that he was following another party colleague, Lok Sabha MP Tariq Anwar, by resigning and added that more NCP workers might follow suit.

“Sharad Pawar has never supported fundamental forces. How can he say Narendra Modi is not guilty in the Rafale case in the minds of the public? A JPC probe has not yet been set up,” Mr Hakim said.

“Tariq Anwar is one of the founder members of the party. He was not consulted while making an important stand of the party public (on Rafale). In such a case, it is difficult to defend the party’s image after Pawar saheb supported Modi in the Rafale case,” he added.

Anwar had resigned from the party and also from the Lok Sabha to express his annoyance over Pawar’s move to defend the Prime Minister. Anwar who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Katihar seat was the founding member of the party which came into being in 1999.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is completely involved in the deal which has been substantiated by the statement of former president of France but the former has failed to prove his innocence in the matter. In such a situation defending the Prime Minister by party chief Pawar is really unfortunate,” Anwar told a Press conference at Katihar on Friday.

He added he was indeed hurt by the statement of his party chief although he personally respected him.

The party later came out with a clarification, saying it did not amount to a clean chit to the prime minister.

Anwar, along with Sharad Pawar and PA Sangma, had in 1999 broken away from the Congress to protest against the anointment of a ‘foreign origin person’ – Sonia Gandhi as the party president and floated NCP.

The Congress lauded the move of Anwar who for long was associated with the Grand Old party before joining the NCP.

“He is a fine leader and we are eagerly waiting for his next political,” party spokesperson Premchandra Mishra said. The remark amply indicates Anwar is headed for the Congress although he has kept his card close to his chest.

(With agency inputs)