Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra met RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary at the airport in Uttar Pradesh's Lucknow, and later both of them left for Delhi in a chartered aircraft of the Chhattisgarh government, a development that has set rumours in political circles.
After addressing the ‘Pratigya Rally' in Gorakhpur on Sunday, Ms Gandhi had reached Lucknow to take a flight to Delhi, and it was during the same time that Mr Chaudhary also reached the airport.
Commenting on the incident, a senior RLD leader told PTI on Monday, "Priyanka Gandhi and Jayant Chaudhary left for Delhi in the chartered aircraft of Chhattisgarh government on Sunday."
Asked that the meeting is being perceived as arm-twisting tactics of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) to exert pressure on the Samajwadi Party (SP) with regard to seat-sharing for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh polls, he said, "No pressure has been exerted by anyone. This was an informal meeting (shishtaachaar bhet), and it was prevalent among leaders of earlier times. The BJP has changed this trend, and people have become enemies of each other in politics."
Describing the sequence of events at the Chaudhary Charan Singh airport in Lucknow, the RLD leader said, "Jayant Chaudhary's flight was at 5.30 pm, and he had reached the airport at around 4 pm. I was also there. After this, at around 5 pm, Priyanka Gandhi reached there. Ms Gandhi offered him to take the flight, but the RLD chief was reluctant to board the same flight. His flight was later delayed.
"Jayant told Priyanka that two people were accompanying him, and if all of them could be accommodated. On this, the Congress leader, after speaking to the aircraft crew, got the ticket of Trilok Tyagi (one of those accompanying Jayant) cancelled, and the three RLD leaders boarded the flight,” he said.
The RLD leader added that as he was leaving the Lucknow airport at around 5.15 pm, he saw SP chief Akhilesh Yadav at the waiting room.
"But, I cannot say whether the three leaders met," he said.
When contacted, RLD's UP chief Masood Ahmad told PTI, "Jayant Chaudhary on Sunday told reporters that RLD's electoral alliance was with the SP. This was already in place. There is ideological similarity between the SP and RLD. Seat sharing will be done soon, and talks are going on. I think both sides have sat together on this issue. We will contest the polls together."
Meanwhile, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav in an interview to PTI on Monday said, "Our alliance with the RLD is final, and seat-sharing is to be finalised."
The RLD enjoys support among farmers of western Uttar Pradesh and is on the same page with the SP on the issue of opposing the Centre's three farm laws.
In the 2017 UP assembly elections, the Congress and Samajwadi Party contested together, with the Congress contesting on 114 seats, while the SP fought on 311 seats. On some seats, both the Congress and the SP had fielded candidates. As many as 47 SP candidates registered a win, while seven Congress candidates managed to secure victory in the 2017 UP Assembly polls.
The RLD on the other hand fielded 277 candidates, of which it won only one seat.