What's the connection between your political clout and the seating plan at a Government official lunch?
"A lot. It always reflects the power equation," said a senior minister of the UPA who did not wish to be named. And that showed on Wednesday's power lunch that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi hosted.
A day after the Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee extended her support to the UPA's presidential nominee Pranab Mukherjee, the Prime Minister offered Trinamool MP Sukhendu Shekhar Ray a seat on his table. Other members on his table included Rahul Gandhi, P Chidambaram, National Conference leader Dr Farooq Abdullah and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam. The seating plan was a carefully chosen one. While the Government reached out to the Trinamool, by having Mulayam Singh Yadav seated at the same table, it also sent a subtle hint - if Ms Banerjee backed out, Mr Yadav could always fill-in to help the UPA.
But it was not only about the Mamata-Mulayam combination but also reaching out to other allies. On July 14, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) stayed away from the UPA meeting that declared the UPA's vice presidential nominee. The idea was to put across the point strongly that he did not appreciate the Government's decision to offer the No 2 position to AK Antony instead of Sharad Pawar. Sources close to Mr Pawar argue that Antony was junior to him and the congress should not have done this. So, in an effort to reach out, Mrs Gandhi sat next to Mr Pawar along with Ajit Singh, Lalu Prasad and BSP's Satish Chandra Mishra.
AK Antony was at the third reserved table and had Karan Singh and Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Dara Singh Chauhan among others for company. A senior Congress minister told NDTV that the lunch was an effort at bonding before the Presidential elections.