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May 23, 2012 at 09:20am IST

UPA dinner diplomacy: Mamata out, Mulayam in?

New Delhi: Is the Congress readying itself to dump Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and get Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav to replace her as an ally? The Samajwadi Party chief was the star of UPA-II's third anniversary dinner. He was seen sharing the stage and then the high table with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, which is an honour reserved only for close allies.

Later at the dinner, Mulayam was seen sitting next to Sonia. Hit by policy paralysis and facing roadblocks from allies like Mamata, the Congress seems to be looking at Mulayam as a way out.

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Its calculation is that it could use Mulayam's support to go ahead with big ticket reforms and counter the Trinamool's repeated threats.

In exchange, Mulayam could get a berth in the government.

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But Congress sources say they are not in a hurry. In a repeat of 2008, when its decision to go ahead with the nuclear deal forced the Left to leave and Samajwadi Party to bail it out, this time too, the Congress could time it with the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Congress leader Renuka Chowdhary said, "It's just a matter of etiquette that we invited Mulayam. This is not a signal to anyone, all our allies are important and we value them."

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