New Delhi, Aug 6 (IANS) Arch-rivals Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati Monday attended the lunch hosted by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on the eve of the vice-presidential election, marking a new turn in her party's relationship with the two Uttar Pradesh parties which support the UPA government from outside.
Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) chief Mayawati shared the table with Congress president while Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was at the table with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Congress leaders said it was very unusual to see the two leaders together attending a "political lunch".
At the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's anniversary dinner in May this year, Mulayam Singh was given a prime place while Mayawati did not turn up.
Congress leaders, who attended the lunch, said Gandhi and Mayawati talked to each other for quite some time.
"Mayawati was given a pride of place at the lunch. The bitterness of the campaign (in UP assembly elections) now seems to be a thing of the past," a Congress leader told IANS.
He said it was "perhaps the first time" that Mayawati and Mulayam Singh were present together at a lunch hosted by a Congress leader.
Also present at Gandhi's table were Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar's daughter and MP Supriya Sule.
Besides Mulayam Singh, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad, NCP leader Tariq Anwar and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ramvilas Paswan were present at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's table.
Sources said Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi was sitting at a third table along with union ministers Sushilkumar Shinde, A. K. Antony and Ghulam Nabi Azad.
NCP leaders Pawar and Praful Patel were not present at the lunch though party leaders later explained that they had prior commitments.
Congress sources said the presence of both Mayawati and Mulayam Singh at the lunch will increase the party's zone of comfort and space for manoeuvrability during the monsoon session of parliament.
The Congress-led UPA is seeking a second consecutive term for Hamid Ansari as the vice-president. Congress leaders expressed optimism that Ansari will get over 500 votes in the election Tuesday.