Millennium Post

Mamata declines Sonia dinner ahead of prez poll

Mamata declines Sonia dinner ahead of prez poll
The West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has turned down the invitation extended by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi for a dinner party on 18 July, ahead of the presidential election. The reason cited was that Banerjee would get busy with the Trinamool Congress Martyr's Day rally in Kolkata on 21 July for which Trinamool workers would start arriving from 18 July.

On behalf of Gandhi, the Congress leader Ahmed Patel called up Banerjee on Friday, asking her to join the dinner. But, the Trinamool chief said a definitive no. The refusal is significant, considering the Trinamool's participation in the UPA meeting on Saturday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked Banerjee to attend this meeting, but she decided to send the union railway minister Mukul Roy instead.

Just when the political grapevine had started giving signals of the ice melting between the two UPA allies, Banerjee's refusal has taken things back to square one. The dinner was thrown in support of UPA's presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee, and the MPs of the UPA and its allies have been invited for the dinner.

The Trinamool sources say that Banerjee's refusal was expected, considering her stiff opposition to the candidature of the former union finance minister.


Notwithstanding Mamata Baneerjee's refusal to attend UPA dinner on 18 July, Congress today expressed the hope her party will vote for the alliance's Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee.

‘Hopefully [Banerjee] will vote for both our presidential and vice presidential nominees,’ AICC in-charge for West Bengal Shakeel Ahmed told reporters here.

The confidence of the Congress leader stems from a feeling that Banerjee would not be able to overlook the Bengali sentiments and will also not like to be seen with the BJP, which is backing the candidature of P A Sangma.

Though the Congress has yet not officially named its vice presidential nominee, there are broad indications that incumbent Vice President Hamid Ansari is the candidate.

Sources said that Ansari's name could be announced tomorrow after the UPA meeting. A meeting of Congress top brass deliberated over the issue in detail in over an hour long meeting.

The meeting of Congress Core Group chaired by Congress President Sonia Gandhi with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by her side is learnt to have decided on the Vice Presidential issue.

There is a view in Congress that Ansari, who became vice president in 2007 with the backing of many parties including Left is a ‘safer’ choice.

The Core Group meeting took place on day, when Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel rang up Mamata Banerjee inviting her to the UPA dinner on July 18, but the Trinamool Congress chief said would be unable to attend.

Trinamool Congress sources said that it was not a boycott of the dinner but Banerjee could not attend as she would be busy with the annual Trinamool Congress 'martyr's day' rally here on 21 July for which party workers would begin arriving from 18 July.

On Presidential election, Congress has already been assured of the support of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and AJSU in the BJP-ruled Jharkhand despite the fact that both these parties are participating in the BJP-led government in the tribal state.

A party leader, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed confidence that Jaganmohan Reddy led YSR Congress as well as Chandrababu Naidu's TDP in Andhra Pradesh will also back Mukherjee's candidature.

Though the NDA ally JD-U, which breaking ranks from the BJP, backed Mukherjee's candidature has so refrained from pronouncing its support for UPA's vice presidential nominee, Congress is hopeful that the party will back Hamid Ansari, who is tipped to be the UPA candidate.

To a question on whether the differences in UPA witnessed on presidential election will also reflect in the vice presidential election, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, ‘UPA is one. President election is a separate issue. The process for the vice presidential election has just begun.’
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