When top leaders of different parties —- all most all at loggerheads with each other -— sat shoulder to shoulder in a first ever pre-poll conclave expecting rivalry expressed was obvious. But the men in Khadi diffused it with unanticipated camaraderie and humor.
And imagine who cracked the first joke and sent everyone—including the Congress against whom it was targeted—into peals of laughter. It was the Samajwadi Party national president, Mulayam Singh Yadav. During the discussion in the first session on electoral reforms, a suggestion came that the commission should first make a draft and send it to member of parliament for taking a decision to evolve a consensus.
Mulayam nudging the Bharatiya Janata Party MP, Rajnath Singh and looking at the Congress leader PL Punia said: "Hum aur aap (SP and BJP) toh mil baith kar faisla kar lengey, par inhey (Congess) ko to permission leni padegi (SP and BJP) can evolve a consensus, but Congress ones will do nothing without 'permission'".
Everyone understood that he meant in Congress nothing happens without Sonia Gandhi’s permission. The issue of consensus to which Mulayam responded also included taking consensus on various issues or even forming a consensus government.
It is not easy to stop a politician to stop his speech once he grabs a mike and the moderator had to indicate time to everyone. And pat came a response from the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) MP, Jayant Chaudhary: "Oh, I will check myself from prolonging my speech, because you seem to be stricter than the Lok Sabha speaker."
He cracked another joke when the lights and sound in the hall went off due to power cut. "I wonder if I should speak against the power scenario in UP, because already it tripped twice here." There was laughter again.
It appeared that the speakers wanted to outdo the previous one in making the audience and rival politicians laugh. So when it was the turn of the Samajwadi Party state president, Akhilesh, he outdid all. His first joke was quite a loaded one and gave hints about a likely post-poll scenario.
"I am so glad that the host made me sit at that point on the dais where the left and the right tables meet. At the end of right table is Jayant (RLD) and at the right is Tariq Siddiqui (Congress). And I(SP) in the middle."
The joke was repeated by Akhilesh when a question came from audience that would SP join seek help from Congress and others to form the government. He said: "Did I not say that Congress and RLD tables are meeting where I am seated."
Taking a dig at the present government policies Akhilesh said: "When a journalist asked an engineer related to generating power from garbage projects' as to why have not the projects started generating power. The engineer replied: 'Quality of garbage was not good'."
To the SP party's rival party, the BSP, he said: “Bataaiye, inhoney ashthdhatu ke Vanmanush aur ashthdhatu ke mendhak laga diye (Imagine, they are so environment and wild life friendly that they have put up ashthdhatu frogs and chimpanzees).”
BSP state president Swami Prasad Maurya was not far behind. He made a joke on himself to make everyone around him laugh.
After everyone had finished spelling out the two top priorities of their party if they form the next government, it was Maurya’s turn.
He said our priority would be the often repeated slogan of welfare of all and happiness for all: “Bahujan Hitaye, Bahujan Sukhaye”. Maurya leaned back in his chair and tilting his head towards the ceiling laughed at his own joke.