PM hosts dinner for allies ahead of stormy session

 Ahead of a likely stormy winter session of Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosted a dinner for UPA allies on Friday to discuss government’s strategy to counter the Opposition onslaught on various issues, including FDI in retail.

Wary of facing a barrage of opposition on a host of reform moves in sectors such as insurance, pension and banking amendment bill, the prime minister has also invited senior BJP leaders for a dinner on Saturday with a view to seeking Opposition support to pass important legislations in the winter session beginning November 22.

This is for the first time since UPA II returned to power in 2009 that the prime minister has invited BJP leaders over a dinner. Sources in the BJP confirmed that L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely will attend Singh’s dinner.

Sources said that the prime minister, who was accused of not consulting parties on the contentious issue of FDI in retail despite party’s assurance in Parliament, has decided to take BJP on board to replace consultation with confrontation.

Friday’s dinner was attended by senior DMK leader T R Baloo, Union Minister and NCP leader Praful Patel, Minister of Renewable Energy and National Conference President Farooq Abdullah and Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).

Singh has already hosted a dinner with Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh and a lunch with BSP supreme Mayawati. But, with the DMK still maintaining suspense over its move on FDI in retail, analysts were apprehensive if the dinner diplomacy would actually yield desired results.

The government can ill afford to watch another Parliament session getting washed out as the reform push that India’s sick economy needs has to past muster in both Houses. But, the FDI in retail is expected to generate a storm in both the Houses next week, as the Left parties have tabled a motion that will seek a vote on government’s proposal.

The government, however, put up a brave face saying it was ready to face any situation including a No-Confidence Motion which the TMC has threatened to move.

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