Red carpet, posters welcome Pranab as he visits Mulayam, Maya

Lucknow: UPA presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee received a tumultuous welcome from Congressmen here Tuesday even as the state's ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) and the opposition Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) rolled out a red carpet for him.

Mukherjee was received by senior state Congress leaders Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Pramod Tiwari and others at the Amausi airport in the morning and was later taken to the Taj hotel for a tea party where Congress leaders, office bearers and legislators met him and felicitated him for being selected as the United Progressive Alliance candidate.

UPA Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee at a meeting with BSP supremo Mayawati at her residence in Lucknow. PTI

Congress leaders had plastered the route from the airport to the Taj hotel with buntings, banners and hoardings welcoming Mukherjee to the city.

Later Mukherjee was accorded a warm welcome by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, his ministerial colleagues and party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. Dressed in starched trademark white dhoti-kurta with a steel grey Nehru jacket, Mukherjee was received by Mulayam Singh at his son's official residence at 5, Kalidas Marg.

After exchanging pleasantaries, Mulayam Singh, Mukherjee and Akhilesh were briefly closetted in private for about ten minutes.

Sipping on fresh butter milk with a dash of mint, Mukherjee sought to know how were things going on for Akhilesh, while Mulayam Singh sought to assure him that with the party's support behind him, he was set to sail through in the presidential race.

Mukherjee was later introduced to legislators of the SP but there was some embarrasment in store for him as two tainted legislators - both in jail - Mukhtar Ansari and Vijay Mishra were also present at the lunch hosted by the chief minister.

Both the legislators were allowed by the court to attend the budget session of the state assembly, which concluded Tuesday but they were present at the luncheon meet too, leaving many red-faced.

While the Congress had invited all legislators for the lunch, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) legislators did not attend.

A beaming Mukherjee was later received by former chief minister and BSP supremo Mayawati at her sprawling Mall Avenue residence late night where the two supped over a lavish Avadhi spread. He met senior leader S.C. Mishra and BSP legislators and MPs on the occassion.

Mukherjee said he had come to thank the parties for their support to him and added that Uttar Pradesh was the most crucial state in the presidential polls, accounting for two lakh votes out of the 11 lakh in the presidential electoral college.

"This visit is to express my gratitude to all those who have announced their support for me as I contest the presidential election," he said.

IANS

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