M A I N   N E W S

Congress allies keep dinner date
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

‘I look forward to the future with hope’

Shortly after Congress president Sonia Gandhi complimented Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he told mediapersons after presenting the UPA-II’s report on completion of two years, he felt humbled that his party had reposed faith in him. “It is my privilege that I have completed seven years in office. I look forward to the future with hope and confidence.” As for the allegations of corruption, the PM maintained that “there was no question of being demoralised by these charges.”

New Delhi, May 22
Since it came to power in 2004, the UPA government’s anniversary celebrations are an occasion to highlight the ruling alliance’s achievements and to present a picture of unity and cohesion.

In the days before today’s programme, held at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence, there was talk that a number of key allies would opt out of the annual show, which would have sent out a worrying signal that the Congress and its allies are not on the same page.

As it happened, the Congress heaved a sigh of relief as all major partners kept their date tonight and lined up for the customary photo-op after the release of the report card to people. The presence of DMK leader TR Baalu was particularly heartening since relations between the Congress and its southern ally have hit a rough patch after former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s daugther Kanimozhi was arrested in connection with the 2G Spectrum case.

The arrival of Samajwadi Party leader Mohan Singh was also a pleasant surprise, especially since SP chief Mulayum Singh Yadav, whose party lends outside support to the government, had written to say that he would not able to take part in the celebrations as his party’s national executive was underway in Kolkata. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, whose party also supports the UPA, made it to the party though he kept a low profile through the evening.

Although newly appointed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had earlier sent word that she would attend the dinner, she cried off at the last minute. However, the Trinamool Congress was represented by Sudeep Bandhopadhaya, who was seated prominently on the dias and then given pride of place at the Prime Minister’s dinner table. Mohan Singh was also among the chosen few at this table and was seated next to the PM.

Baalu, who was first escorted to the podium by Home Minister P Chidambaram, was seated next to Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s table. Although Sonia Gandhi was seen chatting amiably to the others on table, including the third-time Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Baalu clearly looked tense throughout the evening. Gogoi was easily the star of the evening as he was greeted effusively by his colleagues. A smiling Sonia was overheard telling NCP minister Praful Patel and National Conference Minister Farooq Abdullah about how Gogoi had repeatedly assured her that the Congress would score a hat-trick.

Although the UPA government’s reputation has been badly hit by a series of scams and scandals, the alliance leaders hid their worries well, looking relaxed as they dug into the mouth-watering spread, including chaat, biryani and jalebis, laid out on the manicured lawns of the PM’s residence.

Since the anniversary celebrations have come days after the Assembly election results and Kanomozhi’s arrest, it was not surprising that both PM and Congress president referred to the issue of corruption and the poll verdict in their speeches. “The messages of the results, ofcourse, are specific to each state. But there is a common thread. People want good reward, effective and accountable governance. This will continue to be our focus,” Sonia Gandhi said while referring specially to Mamata Banerjee’s historic victory in West Bengal.

The PM pointed out, “Predictable change is a part of democratic politics. In the past few weeks our country was proud to witness peaceful elections to five state assemblies.” “Apart from the historic verdict in West Bengal, in other states too participation in elections was very high. This reaffirms our people's faith in the institutions of democracy,” he added.





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | E-mail |