Akhilesh, Rahul exude bonhomie after SP-Congress alliance is sealed

In the first public appearance together, Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Yadav justified the tie-up.

January 29, 2017 02:00 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 10:03 pm IST - Lucknow

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and SP president Akhilesh Yadav at a press conference in Lucknow on Sunday.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and SP president Akhilesh Yadav at a press conference in Lucknow on Sunday.

The positive chemistry between Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was on display as the two leaders on Sunday walked in together to a hall at the plush Taj Hotel here.

Dressed in identical white kurta-pyjamas and black jackets, the leaders started the joint conference with a hug.

In the first public appearance after the SP and Congress formalised the poll alliance, Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Yadav justified the tie-up. Declaring that their combined objective was to “defeat the fascist forces,” respond to “politics of hate” and counter divisive ideology, the two leaders said, the Congress-SP alliance would usher in a “storm of development”.

Both leaders resorted to symbolism to drive home their point.

Mr Gandhi said he shared both a “personal and political relationship” with Akhilesh and their coming together was akin to the “meeting of the Ganga and Yamuna at the Sangam.” Mr Yadav, in turn, pronounced that he and Mr. Gandhi were “two wheels of the cycle.”

The leaders also released the joint campaign slogan: U.P. koh yeh saath pasand hai (U.P. relishes this alliance).

Following the press meet, they embarked on a 10-km road show through prominent market areas, especially localities with large Muslim populations.

With less than two weeks left for the first phase of polling, however, the SP and Congress did not reveal campaign strategy and remained vague on whether Mr Mulayam Singh and Ms. Sonia Gandhi would take part. They also did not divulge details of the negotiation over the seat sharing in Amethi and Rae Bareli. Seat sharing is a “peripheral issue” not “fundamental” to the alliance,” Mr. Gandhi said, telling the media that it took the “posturing” by the two parties too seriously.

On awkward questions about the Congress’ earlier campaign slogan of 27 saal UP behaal , which in principle had included criticism of previous SP governments, Mr. Gandhi chose to be diplomatic, referring to a past meeting of party workers where he had hailed Mr. Yadav as a “good lad” who was not being allowed to work. He acknowledged that the two parties had “similarities and differences” and would “need to comprise a little” for the future of U.P. “We want to contest elections on the similarities,”

The two leaders took a short break from their campaigning when the maghrib azan , the Muslim call for evening prayer, was sounded. And reaching out to the minority, the hallmark of the alliance, was also in focus in the route chosen by the leaders for their road show. The show concluded with a prolonged handshake as the two leaders stood atop their campaign bus at the historic Ghantaghar (clock tower) as hundreds of flag-waving supporters cheered.

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