Projecting a united face on the eve of vice presidential poll, all constituents of United Progressive Alliance and those supporting it from outside including arch rivals Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati attended a lunch hosted by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
Samajwadi Party chief Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati attended the luncheon at Hotel Ashok. The two bitter foes in UP politics have not attended a function together for the last many years.
While Mayawati shared the table with Sonia Gandhi, Yadav was seated next to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh separately.
However, the chiefs of the BSP and the SP did not exchange any pleasantries.
Mayawati did not respond when asked about it while AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh, who is the in-charge of Congress affairs for Uttar Pradesh merely said, "this is the strength of Uttar Pradesh".
Trinamool Congress, which is likely to formally declare its support to UPA vice presidential nominee Hamid Ansari by Monday night after its party meeting, was in full attendance with many of its MPs including Union Ministers Sudip Bandyopadhyay and C M Jatua present there. TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee, however, did not attend the luncheon.
"It is good that people across all parties are supporting good candidates," said Minister of State for Parliamentary
Affairs Rajiv Shukla when asked to comment on support gaining ground for Ansari's candidature.
Bandyopadhyay, as well as NCP chief Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule shared the table with Sonia Gandhi. During the lunch, Gandhi also held brief interactions with Sule. Union Ministers Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel could not attend the luncheon meeting as they were away from Delhi.
"There is no political message in their absence," said senior NCP leader D P Tripathi when asked why the two leaders did not come NCP had a few days back expressed its reservations over the functioning of the UPA government with both Pawar and Patel indicating that they might pull out from the government while stating that NCP will continue to be part of UPA.
The prime minister shared his table among others with Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Lalu Prasad, Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan, NCP leaders Tariq Anwar and Tripathy.
Rahul Gandhi, who is tipped to play a larger role in the Congress party and the government had a separate table, which was shared by Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Defence Minister A K Antony, Power Minister Veerappa Moily and Civil Avialtion Minister and RLD chief Ajit Singh and senior Congress leader Karan Singh.
Senior party leaders Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni and Rajiv Shukla received the guests at the venue.
The meeting has also come two days before the Monsoon session of Parliament begins on August 8.
"We are ready for discussion on all issues that are raised by the Opposition. We are prepared to discuss any issue," said Union Minister Rajiv Shukla.
After the lunch, Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal said his party will not be a reason for the fall of the UPA government.
Though his party is supporting the government from outside, Agrawal said that Samajwadi Party will be "in the role of an Opposition party" and its support to the government is "issue based".