New Delhi: Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was the cynosure of all eyes at the UPA anniversary function in 2012, was conspicuous by his absence on Wednesday. Instead, the pride of place was taken by Bahujan Samaj Party's Satish Chandra Mishra and Brajesh Pathak who did not attend the presentation of the 'Report to the People' but came in time for dinner. No leader or MP from Samajwadi Party was present at the function.
Congress managers, however, downplayed the absence of Yadav with Union Minister Rajeev Shukla saying the absence of any party at the function does not mean that it was not supporting the UPA. Both the BSP leaders were seated at the same table as UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and UPA leaders like Sharad Pawar and outside supporters like RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan.
Amar Singh was seated on the same table but a Union Minister said the seat was reserved for Defence Minister AK Antony who had to move to the table of the Prime Minister. Sanjeev Kumar of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha was also present at the function. Despite not being a part of the UPA, Lalu Prasad and Paswan were also present on the dais.
While the Samajwadi Party chose to remain absent at the function, BSP leaders Satish Chandra Mishra and Brajesh Pathak attended the dinner.
Later asked whether Congress would include his party in the UPA, Lalu Prasad remarked "whether it happens or not, we are going to support them". The highlight of the 2012 function was the growing bonhomie between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party, with Mulayam Singh Yadav being a prominent face on the dais despite not being a part of the UPA.
Incidentally, UPA's second biggest constituent at that time, the Trinamool Congress had sent only a junior minister Saugata Roy to attend the function. Since then, the Trinamool Congress has parted ways with the UPA as also the DMK. Pawan Kumar Bansal, who was the master of ceremonies in 2012, was replaced by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath. The former Railway Minister, who had to quit in the wake a bribery allegation against his nephew, was, however, present at the function.