UPA's dinner diplomacy: What were the party positions?

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New Delhi, May 22: Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was the cynosure of all eyes at the UPA anniversary function last year, was conspicuous by his absence on Wednesday night.

Instead, the pride of place was taken by BSP's Satish Chandra Mishra and Brajesh Pathak who did not attend the presentation of the 'Report to the People' but came in time for dinner.

No leader or MP from the Samajwadi Party (SP) was present at the function.

Congress managers, however, downplayed the absence of Yadav, with Union Minister Rajeev Shukla saying the absence of any party at the function did not mean that it was not supporting the UPA.

Both the BSP leaders were seated at the same table as UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and UPA leaders like Sharad Pawar as well RJD chief Lalu Prasad and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, both of who provide outside support to the Congress-led coalition.

Former SP leader Amar Singh was seated on the same table but a Union Minister said the seat was reserved for Defence Minister AK Antony who had to move to the table of the Prime Minister.

Sanjeev Kumar from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha was also present.

Despite not being a part of the UPA, Lalu Prasad and Paswan were both present on the dais.

When asked whether the Congress would include his party in the UPA, the RJD chief said, "Whether it happens or not, we are going to support them."

The highlight of last year's function was the growing bonhomie between Congress and Samajwadi Party, with Mulayam Singh Yadav being a prominent face on the dais despite not being a part of the UPA.

Incidentally, UPA's second biggest constituent at that time, Trinamool Congress, had sent only a junior minister, Saugata Roy, to attend the function.

Since then, Trinamool has parted ways with the UPA; DMK followed soon after.

Pawan Kumar Bansal, who was the master of ceremonies last time, was replaced by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath. The former Railway Minister, who had to quit in the wake a bribery allegation against his nephew, was, however, present at the function.

PTI

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