Chandigarh, July 14: Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni on Saturday played down West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to attend a dinner hosted by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on the eve of the presidential elections.
Soni said the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief has her own programmes because of which she would not be able to the dinner to be held on July 18.
“And as far as I have read, the Trinamool Congress lawmakers and others will be present there. Mamata Banerjee has expressed her regret because she has her own programmes, which compels her to be in Kolkata till 21st,” she said.
Soni further said the UPA chairperson hosts a dinner for all the Members of Parliament, who are in the government and those who support the ruling coalition from outside, every year, and added that it is being done in the same manner this year also.
“Sonia Gandhi hosts a dinner for the MPs every year. And even this year, as I have heard, it is scheduled to take place on 18th. All the Members of Parliament of UPA, those who are in the government and those who support us from outside are invited for the dinner. It is being done in the same manner this year also,” she said.
According to certain media reports, Mamata Banerjee is not attending the dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi.
Two reasons are being cited for Banerjee’s absence from the UPA dinner. he Trinamool Congress is set to organize a massive ‘Shahid Divas rally’ on July 21 for which party workers will start arriving in Kolkata from July 18. Besides, all the party MPs and MLAs have been directed by the TMC chief to be in Kolkata on July 18, as she is expected to announce her stand during the upcoming presidential election.
The relationship between the ruling Congress Party and its ally, the Trinamool Congress, has weakened over the past one month following disagreement on the choice of the presidential candidate.
Mamata Banerjee had held a joint press conference after meeting the Samajwadi Party (chief) Mulayam Singh Yadav in Delhi last month, where she had proposed the names of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, former President Dr. A.P. J. Abdul Kalam and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee as possible choices as the presidential candidates.
Mamata Banerjee has still not backed UPA presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee in the Raisina Hill race. She is also opposed to Mohammad Hamid Ansari’s second term as the Vice President, while the ruling Congress Party appears to be firm on it. (ANI)