Prime Minister Narendra Modi sat with Samajwadi Party (SP) veteran Mulayam Singh Yadav at a dinner party hosted by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at his residence on Tuesday. The senior leader’s son and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav gave it a miss, while others called it “dinner diplomacy” before the Presidential elections.
The BJP had recently declared Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind, who is from Uttar Pradesh, as NDA’s candidate for the Presidential elections.
Sources said Adityanath had invited Akhilesh as well as BSP chief Mayawati for the dinner, but the latter too did not attend.
Both Akhilesh and Mayawati had attended Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s dinner party in New Delhi recently.
Sources said that the PM sat with Mulayam on the dinner table, where they were joined by Adityanath, Governor Ram Naik, state Assembly Speaker Hridya Narain Dixit and Allahabad Chief Justice DB Bhosale. Leader in UP Legislative Council Ramesh Yadav, who is leader of Samajwadi Party, also attended the dinner, they added. No other leader from SP and BSP was seen at the party.
BJP insiders said the CM’s move to invite his predecessors was an attempt to get a platform for discussion on the NDA’s Presidential candidate. A senior party leader said, “The arrival of Mulayam Singh Yadav was expected. The prime minister had given regards to Mulayam during Adityanath’s oath ceremony as well. We expected that Mayawati and Akhilesh will not turn up for the party.”
In a statement released on Monday, Mayawati had said that her party will take a “positive stand” on Kovind’s candidature for the post of President because he is a Dalit, if the Opposition does not field a “more popular and able person from the Dalit section”. Akhilesh is yet to clear his stand on NDA’s candidate.
At the dinner party, guests were seated at round tables as per a table number. Sources said it was attended by nearly 200 dignitaries, who were served vegetarian food. Alongwith the CM’s Cabinet colleagues, a number of social workers, eminent doctors, judges, retired IAS officers, IPS officers and local leaders of BJP attended the event.
While several eminent citizens of Lucknow were present at the dinner party, sources claimed there was no Muslim cleric among them. Soon after Modi arrived, he, alongwith Adityanath, walked to each table and personally met every person present, added sources. After the dinner, the prime minister went to Raj Bhavan.
On Wednesday, Modi will take part in an International Yoga Day programme at Ramabai Ambedkar ground, where Governor Ram Naik and Adityanath, alongwith nearly 50,000 people, will practice yoga.