New Delhi: Voicing displeasure over the alliance between Samajwadi Party and Congress, SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav on Sunday said he would not campaign for it in the state assembly polls. “I am completely against the alliance. I will not campaign for it,” Mulayam said on a day his son and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi held their first joint press conference in Lucknow and held a road show displaying great bonhomie.
Mulayam, who had rejected the possibility of an alliance for the assembly polls before being deposed as party president by Akhilesh, said, “Congress ruled the country for a long time and made it laggard. We always fought against Congress.” “Samajwadi Party is capable of contesting elections alone. In the past, it fought alone and formed government with a majority. No occasion arose for effecting an alliance,” he said.
After the Election Commission settled the dispute between Mulayam and Akhilesh in the latter’s favour, the SP patriarch had submitted a list of 38 candidates to his son but chosen not to field nominees separately.
Earlier in Lucknow, beaming smiles, same-colour jackets, tight hugs, warm handshakes, a dazzle of a thousand flash bulbs – the maiden outing of Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi created the desired buzz in the land of Avadh on a chilly Sunday.
At their first joint appearance at Hotel Taj Vivanta, Akhilesh and Rahul not only looked confident of their alliance’s prospects in the assembly polls but also looked comfortable in each other’s company.
Right from the time Akhilesh received the Gandhi scion in the hotel lobby with tulips, peony and orchids to the time they walked
together into the conference room, the two shared an instant chemistry which close aides say had been building for some time now.
Once in front of the scribes, the two leaders smiled for the cameras and held each other in a tight hug. As Rahul moved forward to hold him in embrace, Akhilesh Yadav patted his back, reciprocating the warmth.
Earlier, senior leaders of the Congress – P L Punia, Sanjay Singh, Pramod Tiwari, Raj Babbar – set the tone for the bonhomie as they mingled with their Samajwadi colleagues Naresh Uttam, Ahmad Hasan, Naresh Agarawal, cracking jokes and raising their hands in a toast to their electoral alliance.
Akhilesh and Rahul lost no opportunity to show they were together. “This is good you are acknowledging that we have done good work,” Akhilesh remarked to a journalist. Rahul was candid enough to admit he had differences of opinion while negotiating the alliance and said their main aim was to defeat the RSS-fed communal hatred and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “politics of anger”. With a pat on the hand of Akhilesh, seated next to him, Rahul credited the Samajwadi Party president with makings serious attempts to develop the country’s most populous state.
Rahul admitted their negotiations had at one time hit rough weather. But the two leaders exchanged SMSes and were in continuous touch.
“We have agreed on many issues, one basic thing being to work together for the welfare of the poor and to work hard to make UP what it has always been, a guiding force of peace and harmony.”
Close aides told IANS that Rahul and Akhilesh hit it well ever since a medical emergency occurred in Varanasi last year when Congress president Sonia Gandhi was suddenly taken ill. In dire need of medical aid, it was an SoS to the UP Chief Minister’s office that expedited things, an aide said. “The CM personally monitored Sonia’s condition and ensured that the best treatment came her way before she was flown to Delhi,” he added.
Both Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul have been in touch with Akhilesh from then on. Rahul on Sunday admitted that his personal relations with Akhilesh were “very cordial” and they were now stepping into a professional sphere as well. Soon after the two left the hotel, they briefly mingled with party leaders at the hotel and then drove off for their 12-km road show which was received warmly by crowds as it weaved its way into Hazratganj and predominantly Muslim old city areas.