With Mamata Banerjee deciding to attend the swearing-in of Punjab chief minister this week, Congress on Sunday virtually told her not to cross the 'Laxman rekha' of 'coalition dharma', reminding the Trinamool chief that any interaction with NDA allies "beyond the normal boundaries of social courtesy, will become immoral".
"Social interactions with strangers by those in partnerships is permissible, but obviously if things go beyond the normal boundaries of social courtesy, it would become immoral", party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters.
The Congress position on the ticklish matter was made clear close on the heels of reports that Banerjee, whose party is the second largest constituent of the UPA after Congress, has agreed to attend the swearing-in ceremonies of Parkash Singh Badal as Punjab chief minister in Chandigarh on March 14 and that of Akhilesh Yadav as UP chief minister in Lucknow the next day.
While Badal's party Shiromani Akali Dal is a part of the BJP-led NDA, Samajwadi Party is an outside supporter of the Congress at the Centre.
The BJP is the part of the Badal Government in Punjab with the SAD-BJP combine creating history by retaining power by defeating the Congress, while the Samajwadi Party had trounced the Congress to the fourth place in UP polls despite Rahul Gandhi leading the campaign from the front.
Singhvi's remarks were significant as they came just a day before the budget session of Parliament which appears to be a tough affair for the Congress-led coalition with the opposition parties attempting to make a common cause with allies of the UPA as also supporting parties on the issue of federalism.
In fact, the Trinamool Congress has emerged as the most troublesome ally of the Congress in recent months and has left no opportunity to create problems for the Centre on all major issues including petrol price hike and allowing FDI in retail.
Only on Saturday, senior Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed, who is in-charge of party affairs in West Bengal, had met Mamata in Kolkata. He had tried to play down the invitation from the Akalis.
"This does not worry us. Inviting somebody for a function is not a political gesture. Politics involves human relationships. This should not be considered exclusively political," Ahmed had said.
Mamata's decision comes a day after the Trinamool Congress parliamentary party decided to strike a combative note ahead of the Budget Session of Parliament. The party has decided take on the entre on issues like NCTC and Farakka on the floor of the house.
Fuelling concerns in the Congress' camp, regional leaders like Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi have been echoing Mamata's criticism of the central government for infringing upon the federal structure of the country. It has come at a time when speculation was rife that some regional leaders will form a "Fourth Front".