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Congress to give a complete miss of official banquet for Trump

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. File

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. File   | Photo Credit: Paul Noronha

U.S. officials had not contacted the principal Opposition for any one-on-one meeting between the U.S. President and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi

No Congress leader will attend the official banquet, hosted by President Ram Nath Kovind, in honour of United States President Donald Trump on Tuesday, party sources said on Monday

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad as well as Lok Sabha Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury were invited by President Kovind.

The Congress, however, decided to give the event a complete miss as Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who also heads the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP), was not on the guest list.

The official banquet is the only engagement that Opposition leaders were to have with Mr. Trump during his two-day visit.

So far, U.S. officials have not contacted the Congress for any one-on-one meeting between Mr. Trump and Ms. Gandhi.

Congress sources claimed that Mr Azad thanked President Kovind for the invitation but decided to skip the event to protest against Ms. Gandhi’s exclusion.

Mr. Chowdhury said the Government of India should have insisted with the U.S. authorities to follow the ‘time-honoured principle’.

He told The Hindu that the decision to skip the banquet was a ‘personal’ one. He objected to Congress leaders being left out of Monday’s ‘Namaste Trump’ event in Ahmedabad.

“When the ‘Howdy Modi’ event took place in Houston, both Democrats and Republicans were invited. Why have the Opposition leaders been left out in Ahmedabad,” he asked.

“It’s been a time-honoured tradition that when visiting dignitaries come, meetings with Opposition leaders take place. When the UPA was there and former President Barack Obama visited, he met with Opposition leaders,” Mr. Chowdhury noted.

On Friday, the Congress described Mr. Trump’s visit as an important step in India-U.S. strategic relationship but its success would be measured by its outcomes.

Deputy Leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma had said India should raise its concerns over the withdrawal of General System of Preference status to India, reduction in H1B visas and settlement of social security deposits made by Indian professionals in the U.S.

“This visit should not become an extension of the U.S. presidential campaign for the Indian diaspora. We do not become active party in the elections in another country. This mistake was made in Texas at the ‘Howdy Modi’ event and the Prime Minister ought to be careful as these are setting wrong precedents,” he said.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 8:03:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/trump-visit-former-pm-manmohan-singh-to-attend-official-banquet-on-tuesday/article30901627.ece

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