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Congress reaches out to allies, but Mamata snubs again

Tuesday March 13, 2012 11:11:48 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: On a day when the Congress faced heat from its key allies inside parliament, the government tried to reach out to them and agreed for better coordination to avoid further embarrassment.

But Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee snubbed government efforts again by sending a junior party member for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's dinner meet for alliance partners.

In a warning, senior Congress leader and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the allies that if they bring in amendments, the government will fall.

Amid talks of mid-term polls following the Congress party's poor showing in the assembly elections to five states, the prime minister invited UPA allies - DMK, Trinamool Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and National Conference MPs -- to dinner. The meeting was to discuss the strategy for the parliament session, which will be taking up crucial financial business, including the rail and general budget this week.

"We all agree that there should be greater coordination. Parliamentary Affairs Minister (Pawan K. Bansal) will call the leaders of the parties to discuss floor coordination," Home Minister P.Chidambaram told reporters outside 7 Race Course Road - the official residence of prime minister.

"There is a fair chance there could be voting on occasions when these three subjects are taken up. We request all the leaders should ensure that their members are present in the house and vote along with the government," Chidambaram said.

He was referring to the president's speech, the rail budget and the general budget.

He also expressed confidence that the government would be seeing through financial business in parliament.

The meet called to thrash out differences with its major allies further left the government red-faced.

Senior Trinamool Congress leaders, including its seven ministers, skipped the dinner. The party is also planning to organise a sit-in in the parliament complex to demand a special financial package for West Bengal.

Trinamool Congress MP Ratna De Nag was the lone MP who was present.

But, Home Minister P.Chidambaram brushed it aside.

"The Trinamool Congress representative was present and the meeting was cordial," Chidambaram added. When pressed further, he said the members couldn't join as the West Bengal assembly session will be starting soon.

The dinner came a few hours after both the DMK and Trinamool Congress embarrassed the government inside the parliament.

The Trinamool Congress, which has been attacking the government on various issues, including the latest move by the central government to set up National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) in the states, has said it would move an amendment on the president's speech, which mentions setting up NCTC.

The DMK asked the United Progressive Alliance government to vote against Sri Lanka on a US-sponsored resolution before the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights (UNHCHR) in Geneva on war crimes. It also asked the government to make its stand clear on the issue.

Those present at the meet included National Conference's Farooq Abdullah and DMK's T.R. Baalu, who represented the DMK.

From the NCP, union Minister for Heavy Industries Praful patel was present. However, Sharad Pawar, who heads the NCP was not present as he had fainted in the parliament and had to be admitted to the hospital.

Speaking to reporters, Chidambaram also said that "smaller parties who are the members of the alliance desired that they should get more time to speak because they cannot express their views in two three minutes.

"We agreed that Congress will give chunk of its time to smaller parties so that members can speak 7-8 minutes," he added.







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President Pratibha Patil (in white sari) being ceremonially escorted for her address to a joint sitting of parliament on the opening day of the budget session on Monday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is at left. Vice President Hamid Ansari is at the right, while Lok Sabha speaker is second from right.

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