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PM’s kitchen busy before House sizzler

New Delhi, Nov. 11: The Prime Minister lunched with Mayawati at his home today, trying to rally support for the economic reforms and cushion his government from Opposition attacks during the winter session of Parliament.

Manmohan Singh had hosted a dinner on Friday for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief’s Uttar Pradesh rivals: Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Sources said Singh was reaching out to leaders outside the ruling alliance following Trinamul’s exit, just like he had in 2008 after the Left withdrew support.

Neither Sonia Gandhi nor Rahul Gandhi attended the meetings with Mulayam and Mayawati but parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath was present at today’s discussions.

This evening, the Prime Minister hosted a dinner for allies to keep his flock intact. The DMK has criticised the oil and cooking-gas price hikes and the move to allow FDI in multi-brand retail but pledged not to destabilise the Centre.

The government expects a shrill attack from the BJP and Trinamul after Parliament reconvenes on November 22.

Trinamul has threatened a no-confidence motion or a resolution over FDI in retail. The BJP claims the government has been reduced to a minority after Trinamul’s pullout, injecting a sense of urgency to the Prime Minister’s efforts to woo the heartland twins.

The BSP and the Samajwadis have 21 and 22 members each in the Lok Sabha. Support from either can make up for the loss of Trinamul’s 19 MPs, which has reduced the ruling alliance to 267 members against the majority mark of 272. If both back the government, it can breathe easy with a tally of 310.

Both heartland parties now support the Centre from outside but the government wants to be assured of their backing inside Parliament if Trinamul pushes for the threatened no-trust motion or resolution.

Mayawati and Mulayam are both opposed to FDI in retail in principle, but have so far not clarified if they might join hands with the Opposition to corner the government in the House.

Mayawati denied that the lunch with Singh was tied to the winter session. “It’s not the first time, I have come many times before too. We are in politics; we have to see each other for lunch, dinner, etc. The Parliament session is going to start but it is wrong to say I went just because of that,” she said.

Sources said Mayawati had not committed her support on FDI but said she would not join the BJP to pull the government down. Mulayam too has said he would not help the “communal forces” return to power.

Mayawati’s party had over a month ago authorised her to decide on possible withdrawal of support to the government but she has not taken a call yet, preferring to hold on to her bargaining chip after losing power in her state.

Both the Samajwadi and BSP chiefs have the CBI after them over disproportionate assets. The agency is pursuing a case against Mulayam and family, while the Supreme Court recently said the CBI was free to reopen its case against Mayawati.