A little before RJD chief Lalu Prasad and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar shared the stage, the usually amiable Brishen Patel, minister for education and public relations, was clearly irritated.
The media, from both Delhi and Patna, wanted to know which stalwart would take the mike first.
“There is just one mike and someone or the other will take it,” he said, dismissing the question.
The journalists found their answer soon enough. Nitish Kumar arrived first, in a car with 0007 on the licence plate. Lalu Prasad Yadav arrived seven minutes later, with a garland for Nitish.
Based on the order of their arrival, Nitish spoke first. While his speech was crisp and matter-of-fact, Lalu talked longer, generous with puns, mixing folklore with fact.
Lalu took several digs at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and added that ‘acche din’ had only brought in price rise and a hike in rail fares, to much applause.
However, not everyone in the crowd was impressed.
“Somewhere, Lalu lost the plot. If he thought this was a serious test for his party, his tone would have been graver,” said Ravindra Sahni, of Jagdishpur Jamalpur village.
But, many people in the crowd agreed that this grand alliance between the Congress, JD(U) and RJD was long overdue.
The two leaders were all praise for each other, but the intermittent sloganeering was predominantly for Lalu, showing who the ‘Badde Bhai’ was.
Before the speeches, the two leaders hugged each other and raised their hands in unity, but their smiles were frozen held in place until the last media person took a freeze shot of them.
The most interesting presence on stage was Shyam Rajak — once called ‘Hanuman’ by Lalu, who turned into Lalu’s fiercest critic once he joined the JD(U). On Monday, he seemed to be quite enjoying himself as the ‘glue’ holding both parties together.
“These sentiments are purely for the polls. We all felt that while Nitish built up the seriousness, Lalu’s quips watered down the entire event,” said Ramanuj Yadav, from Jamalpur.