Akhilesh Yadav and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra waved at each other when their roadshows crossed paths in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandhshahr today, days before voting in the state.
In a video, Priyanka Gandhi was seen grinning and waving at the Samajwadi Party chief, who was riding in a “rath” or repurposed campaign bus with his ally Jayant Chaudhary, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief.
Both Akhilesh Yadav and Jayant Chaudhary returned the gesture in the video. They climbed the roof of the bus and waved again at the smiling Congress leader.
The bonhomie was infectious as workers and supporters of the Samajwadi Party and Congress appeared to cheer and raise their flags at each other.
In the all-important Uttar Pradesh election starting February 10, which will have a bearing on the 2024 national polls, Akhilesh Yadav has emerged as the main challenger to the BJP and its Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
The Congress, led by Priyanka Gandhi, is not part of any alliance and does not rank very high when it comes to predictions.
While campaigning for the election, Akhilesh Yadav and Priyanka Gandhi have often exchanged bitter accusations but they have been largely cordial in person.
In October, a widely-shared photograph showed the two greeting each other at a chance meeting on a Delhi-Lucknow flight.
Priyanka Gandhi was travelling to UP to flag off statewide yatras and Akhilesh Yadav was returning to Lucknow after his visit to Delhi.
The Congress and the Samajwadi Party joined forces in 2017, but the alliance flopped; the Congress won just seven of the 105 seats it contested, and the Samajwadi 47 (down from the 224 it won in 2012).
Given the Congress’ abysmal strike rate, Mr Yadav declared early this time that he would not ally with the party.
“We did not have a good experience in 2017 – we gave them over 100 seats but we could not win. UP has rejected the Congress,” he told NDTV in June, adding, “I will not get into any alliance with them.”