It all started with the veteran parliamentarian dropping in at Sonia's office in Parliament one evening during the monsoon session, to explain why he could not attend her tea-party for Opposition leaders scheduled for 5 pm that day. The following day's papers would report the tea-party as a flop with the Opposition cold-shouldering Sonia, but the pre-tea meeting was to have a long-term fallout. Impressed with his courtesy and gentleman-like attitude, Sonia invited Somnath-da to tea at 10, Janpath through deputy leader of the Opposition Shivraj Patil, a week before the winter session of Parliament. Their third meeting took place on November 18, the day before the session commenced, and it was then that the idea of forging Opposition unity was hatched. To be truly effective, it would have to be a visible, in-your-face entente.
A dinner was arranged, where Sonia and Mulayam cosied up to each other over hilsa and mustard. His follow-up luchi (Bengali puri) and dum-aloo breakfast meeting for Rajya Sabha MPs was less successful, with both leader of Opposition Manmohan Singh and deputy leader Pranab Mukherjee opting out. But that very evening, Sonia graced Mulayam Singh's glitzy iftar with her presence, signalling that the bad blood between them had flown down the Yamuna. Another meeting is on the cards, this time to be hosted by either the Congress or the SP.