Warm handshakes, hugs, bonhomie mark Rahul-Akhilesh outing

Lucknow, Jan 29 (IANS) Beaming smiles, same-colour jackets, tight hugs, warm handshakes, a dazzle of a thousand flash bulbs – the maiden outing of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leader 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 Yadav and Gandhi 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 Yadav 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 Gandhi 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 Yadav and Gandhi lost no opportunity to show they were together. “This is good you are acknowledging that we have done good work,” Akhilesh Yadav remarked to a journalist.

Gandhi 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, Gandhi credited the Samajwadi Party President with makings serious attempts to develop the country’s most populous state.

Gandhi 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 Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav 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 Gandhi’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 Gandhi have been in touch with Akhilesh Yadav from then on.

Rahul Gandhi on Sunday admitted that his personal relations with Akhilesh Yadav 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.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

–IANS

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