UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi today hosted lunch for all MPs belonging to the ruling coalition and supporting parties, a day before they vote for India's next President.
Even the Trinamool Congress was there, though not party chief Mamata Banerjee who was personally invited by Mrs Gandhi last evening. In fact, no Trinamool MP from Kolkata will attend the lunch; they were represented by two Rajya Sabha MPs - KD Singh and Sukhendu Shekhar Roy. Ms Banerjee held out for days before confirming yesterday, in a surprise announcement, that her party's 50,000 votes in the electoral college would be cast in UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee's favour. She said she was pledging her support with reluctance and that it hurt her to do so.
Mrs Gandhi reportedly invited Ms Banerjee and her MPs for lunch today when she called her to thank her for the support. Soon after tomorrow's Presidential poll, elections for the post of Vice-President will be held. Ms Banerjee would not commit yesterday on whether she will also support the UPA's candidate, Hamid Ansari, for that election. But the Congress hopes to have all its partners together then, as it now has for the Presidential election. Mr Ansari too called Ms Banerjee last evening to seek her support.
Today's big lunch at Ashoka Hotel was aimed at bringing together the Congress president's extended flock just ahead of tomorrow's crucial elections. With the avowed support of parties like the Samajwadi Party and the BSP, and with all allies on board now, the Congress-led UPA is confident that Mr Mukherjee will be the next resident of Rashtrapati Bhawan. Here are how the numbers stack up