PM hosts UPA dinner, invites BJP Saturday
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosted a dinner Friday for UPA partners to discuss the government's strategy ahead of parliament's winter session from Nov 22. He has also invited senior BJP leaders to dinner Saturday, sources said.
The Left parties want a debate and vote on foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail during the winter session, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said. The party has also appealed to others in the opposition to join the issue.
According to sources, the Friday dinner, also described as an informal United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coordination committee meeting, was held at the Prime Minister's House, 7, Race Course Road, to firm up the government's response to the opposition, especially over FDI in retail.
Earlier, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi headed a meeting of the party's core group to review the current political situation, including the declaration of the 2014 Lok Sabha poll candidates by the Samajwadi Party.
Besides Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Home Minister Shushilkumar Shinde, DMK leader T.R. Baalu, NCP leader Praful Patel, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah attended the UPA meeting.
The prime minister has already met Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati separately over separate dinners to keep them in good humour.
Both the SP and the BSP support the UPA from the outside and provide an important cushion to the government, from which Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress quit in September and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen's lone MP Asaduddin Owaisi withdrew last week.
Though UPA sources said the allies are with the government on all major issues, the stand of the DMK on the FDI issue is not yet clear.
UPA sources said they expected the winter session to function normally, but did not rule out the possibility of the BJP again disrupting parliament, as it did in the monsoon session, with an eye to the Gujarat assembly elections due in December.
From the BJP, senior leader L.K. Advani and leaders of opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley are expected to attend the dinner Saturday.