It may have been a wedding reception of a young couple, but the personal was entirely subsumed by the political as India's ruling class came together to attend the power wedding which has brought north India's two most powerful Yadav leaders - Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad - together. The former's grand nephew, Tej Pratap, wed Lalu's youngest daughter, Raj Lakshmi and the reception at the capital's Ashoka Hotel saw the who's who of Delhi, including President Pranab Mukherjee.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked in, escorted by Mulayam and Lalu, even as other guests desperately tried to catch the moment on their mobile cameras. Modi had also attended the tilak ceremony of the couple in Mulayam's ancestral village in UP. After he blessed them, Modi walked back to the VIP enclosure. On his right sat Lalu, and on Lalu's right was Modi's bête noire, the new CM of Bihar, Nitish Kumar.Modi and Kumar shook hands. A source sitting in the enclosure later told HT the PM had asked the CM, "How do you do?" He had also spoken of how Bihar would move out of having a deficit budget, in a reference to the Finance Commission's recommendations which would give states more funds. Observers noted this was the first conversation between them in years.
Among the first political guests to arrive was BJP elder LK Advani. Finance minister Arun Jaitley greeted UP CM Akhilesh Yadav with a hug, and shook hands warmly with Kumar, with whom he had worked closely when BJP and JD(U) were allies. Sushil Modi, who will be Lalu-Nitish's principal rival in Bihar later this year, also attended the reception.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi too came to bless the couple and spent time conversing with Advani and Mulayam in the enclosure. As she departed, in walked her daughter Priyanka with husband Robert Vadra. Other Congress leaders included Digvijaya Singh and Sheila Dikshit. Sharad Pawar and daughter Supriya Sule too were seen, as was UP governor Ram Naik.
Lalu himself appeared like the harassed father of the bride, clearing the stage of crowds, warding off those who entered the VIP enclosure and trying to maintain order. But guests were mostly gaping at the enormous power projection at the wedding, or busy discussing what it meant for politics and alignments. "We may all be down but are not out. The reception shows that. It also shows despite political rivalry, Indian leaders know how to maintain personal courtesies," said an RJD MLA from Bihar.