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Mamata my younger sister: Mulayam

Kolkata: Warming up to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Thursday called her "my younger sister" and said the July presidential polls that saw a rift between the two was a "dead issue".

"I respect Mamataji a lot. We share a great long-standing relation. She is my younger sister," Mulayam Singh told media persons here, a day after his party general secretary Mohan Singh indicated that the SP would prefer the leftists over the Trinamool as an ally.

The Samajwadi Party president denied that his terms with Banerjee had ever been "bitter".

"My relations with Mamataji has never been bitter nor will it ever be. I have lot of respect for her way of working," he said.

Ahead of the presidential polls, Mulayam Singh and Banerjee had come together in a great show of bonhomie and jointly announced a panel of three names as their choice of probable nominees for the country's highest office.

However, the relations soured within a day, as the Samajwadi Party chief did a volte face and extended support to Congress candidate Pranab Mukherjee.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav at Writers Building in Kolkata on Wednesday.

Days before the election, Banerjee also backed Mukherjee, but said she was doing it with a "heavy heart".

Mulayam Singh, however, dismissed the presidential poll-related developments as a "dead issue". "Why are you asking questions on this," he asked media persons.

However, SP's quick-shifting public stands on Banerjee have been marked by high drama over the past two days.

Hours after Mohan Singh indicated the party's inclination towards the leftists - the bete noire of Banerjee, Mulayam Singh's son and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav called on Banerjee at the state secretariat, Writers' Buildings, and said her government was working as per people's expectations.

"I thank Didi (Banerjee) for her time. It doesn't look good to come to Bengal and not meet her. She has come to power after lots of struggle and her government is working according to the expectations of the people," said Akhilesh.

Banerjee reciprocated by saying: "Both the governments (her's and Akhilesh's) were doing a good job".

Mulayam Singh thanked Banerjee for showing a lot of affection to Akhilesh.

"Our UP chief minister, who is also the party's president in that state, had a hour-long meeting with Mamataji yesterday," said Mulayam Singh to queries as to why he did not meet Banerjee during his stay in the city.

Political observers feel that with the Samajwadi Party chief making his prime ministerial ambitions clear by saying he was not a saint, his party seems to be trying to keep both the leftists and the Trinamool happy in its bid to get support from a wide section of parties if it won a large number of Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh in the next general elections.

It was in keeping with this strategy that while Mohan Singh recalled his party's traditionally close ties with the Leftists, Mulayam Singh tried to cosy up to Banerjee.

Regarding the Left, he said his party has not held any talks with them on any poll tie-up and would fight the next Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal on its own strength.

IANS