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Sonia serves up united flavours of UPA for lunch


Starters: Bigger Congress role for Rahul? It's his decision to make, says Sonia

Putting their troubles behind them, the UPA allies put on a rare, united front at a lunch hosted by Sonia Gandhi at a hotel in the Capital on Tuesday, a day ahead of the presidential election.


The show of strength comes at a time when the government is facing widespread criticism for its alleged policy paralysis.


Gandhi personally oversaw the preparations. Before the event, she addressed the speculation over Rahul Gandhi taking on a bigger role in the Congress.


"No one can decide on his behalf. He has to take a decision," she said.


Main course: Pawar keeps Sonia company, signals all's well; Mulayam flies in from Lucknow

Agriculture minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar - who had skipped last week's UPA meeting on the vice-presidential candidate, allegedly miffed at losing out on the No.2 spot in the government to defence minister AK Antony - attended Tuesday's lunch.


Signaling that all's well in the NCP-Congress alliance, he shared Gandhi's table along with RJD's Lalu Prasad, BSP's Satish Chandra Mishra and RLD's Ajit Singh.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who flew in from Lucknow, for company.


Dessert: Day after climbdown, Mamata skips lunch but sends her reps

Mamata Banerjee - who came around to support UPA presidential nominee Pranab Mukherjee just a day ago after holding out for days - was conspicuous by her absence.


But the Trinamool Congress boss sent her Rajya Sabha MPs KD Singh and Sukendhu Sekhar Roy as her representatives. The West Bengal CM was reportedly busy with the party's Martyr's Day preparations for July 21.


I&B minister Ambika Soni, who was there to receive the guests along with other senior Congress leaders, said the lunch was a "routine affair".


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