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HindustanTimes Tue,22 Jul 2014

Fewer allies, quiet rejoicing mark UPA’s dinner party

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, May 23, 2013
First Published: 02:03 IST(23/5/2013) | Last Updated: 02:04 IST(23/5/2013)

As the UPA’s Report to the People was released, Congress president Sonia Gandhi gestured alliance leaders to get closer on the dais while posing for the photograph. She has been successful in holding allies together for most of the last nine years, but compared to last year, two key allies (TMC and DMK) are missing.

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Key outside supporter Mulayam Singh too, abstained as he has been cut up with the UPA over various issues. His arch rival, the BSP, however, was represented by Satish Chandra Mishra and Brajesh Pathak who sat at Sonia’s table.

Rahul Gandhi, who had long chats with AK Antony, later said, he was taking “important tips on the entire situation from his guru.” He also engaged in long conversations with P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma and Lalu Prasad. This was the first UPA anniversary after Rahul’s elevation as the Congress vice president.

Sonia’s table had an unexpected guest — erstwhile SP leader Amar Singh. He was not meant to sit there but displaced Antony, according to a Congress minister. Antony later settled for a seat on the PM’s table.

The seating arrangement went a little astray when J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah could not find place on Gandhi’s or Singh’s table. Paswan initially sat at a distant table but MoS for PMO V Narayanasamy ushered him to PM’s table.

JMM leader Sanjeev Kumar was also present indicating that the two parties might come together to form a government in Jharkhand.

There were much less people than usual and several tables remained empty.

Lalu Prasad said, “Whether we contest in alliance or not, we will support the Congress in 2014. She is a great lady.”

When asked if Priyanka Vadra is going to contest in 2014, Sonia said, “You ask this question to her”. In response to a question on her party’s prime ministerial candidate in 2014, she replied, “everybody”.

The PM resorted to his favourite poet Allama Iqbal when asked if he was feeling upbeat after completion of nine years in office.


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