In a move that dampened the Congress's efforts to galvanise the United Progressive Alliance for the budget session, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee sent a first-time MP, Ratna De Nag, to the Prime Minister's dinner on Tuesday.
Nag was sent to the PM's residence even though top Trinamool MPs and ministers were present in the Capital.
"This is clearly an insult to the Congress," said a Cabinet minister from the party. Congress president Sonia Gandhi as well as all top ministers had come to the dinner.
The Trinamool Congress, however, chose to downplay the issue. "She is the deputy leader of Trinamool in the Lok Sabha. What's the problem if she represents our party at the PM's dinner?" Trinamool parliamentary party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay told HT.
The Congress had also planned a UPA co-ordination committee meeting ahead of the dinner. However, it remained largely unfruitful when its biggest ally sent a junior representative to the event.
It was pressure from the Trinamool Congress that had forced the Congress to revive the co-ordination mechanism last year, after the two sides sparred over the FDI in retail policy — when the ally complained that it was kept in the dark regarding the issue. The last UPA co-ordination committee meeting was convened over the Lokpal issue in December 2011.
This decision was made after the Trinamool Congress announced that its MPs would demonstrate in Parliament on March 15 — a day before the union budget — over certain issues, including Centre's "indifference" towards West Bengal's financial woes. "The Left Front had resulted in a staggering debt of Rs. 2.03 lakh crore. We are only asking for a three-year moratorium on repayment of interest on loans," said Bandopadhyay.