Seeking to honour the "coalition dharma" and project a united picture in the run-up to the 2014 general elections, the UPA's new coordination committee, which includes Sonia Gandhi and the PM, had its debut meeting today to coincide with the beginning of the Monsoon Session of Parliament. But the Trinamool Congress blew a hole straight through that picture of unity by simply not showing up.
West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, her party leaders say, had a previous engagement in Kolkata. But she also failed to depute a representative despite many MPs being in Delhi to attend Parliament. Members of the committee agreed to meet on the last Friday of every month, though Ms Banerjee has been requested to indicate her preferred date to ensure her attendance.
The coordination committee was announced on Monday to ensure proper functioning of the alliance, a demand that was made most recently by ally NCP during its stand-off with the Congress a fortnight ago. Senior NCP leaders and Union Ministers Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel had threatened to quit then and had demanded that the Congress start taking along its allies on key decision-making. Ms Banerjee whose estrangement with the UPA ended after she reluctantly agreed that her party would vote for its candidate, Pranab Mukherjee, for President of India
Leaders of all UPA allies are part of this committee. Both Mr Pawar and his deputy Mr Patel represent the NCP on the panel. Mrs Gandhi heads the committee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister AK Antony, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde are the other members from the Congress.
This is the first time in eight years of the UPA government that a coordination committee of alliance partners has been formed. During UPA-I, there was only a coordination committee between the Congress and Left parties.
(With PTI inputs)