Barely an hour before he was declared CM face of the RJD-JD (U)-Congress alliance on Monday, chief minister Nitish Kumar had acknowledged the importance of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in the new scheme of things.
He will play a crucial role in deciding our policies and political line,he said with reference to the new secular formation which would take on the BJP-led NDA in the Bihar assembly poll due in September-October this year.
Interacting with newsmen, after his scheduled 'janata ke durbar mein mukyamantri' programme, Nitish, at that point of time, appeared "unaware" an announcement was on the anvil of his projection as CM face of the alliance.
However, there was a quiet confidence in his body language, conveying the impression that he was aware he had played his cards well by meeting Rahul Gandhi at the latter's residence in Delhi ahead of the alliance talks with RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav.
The sense emerging from SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav's announcement in New Delhi on Monday that Nitish would be the CM face of the alliance, was that by leveraging the Congress on his side he had counterbalanced Lalu's leverage with Mulayam.
As the declared leader of the Janata Parivar, Mulayam had a critical say in alliance talks. By getting Rahul aboard, Nitish was seen to have balanced out Lalu's closeness to Mulayam, whose grand nephew is married to Lalu's daughter.
"We discussed various matters with Rahul Gandhi but nothing that would interest you,"said Nitish, trying to deflect media attention from the nitty-gritty of his talks with the Congress vice president.
Incidentally, Kumar returned to the state capital before the actual announcement came even as Lalu Prasad's scheduled meeting on Saturday with Congress president Sonia Gandhi was postponed.
Talking about seat-sharing for the Bihar polls, Kumar said that "three members each from the RJD and JD (U) will meet tomorrow (Tuesday) and have a discussion on seat distribution."
On being asked how the alliance would manage to overcome the confusion among JD(U) and RJD workers, who had been daggers drawn for over two decades, Kumar said that would not be a problem.
"We have been interacting with district and block-level leaders. It will be over by June 17. No confusion will be left among the rank and file of the party," Nitish said. He, however, qualified his comment saying "I can only talk about my party".
The chief minister said JD(U) state chief Bashistha Narain Singh was authorised and empowered for tie-up among the alliance parties for the legislative council poll scheduled for July 7.
When it was pointed to him that several candidates for chief minister's post were cropping up ever since the JD(U) had insisted he be declared leader of the alliance, Nitish said, "There is no need for me to react. It is for the people to see and judge."
As for the hoardings declaring 'Bihar needs Nitish Kumar once again', that dotted the state capital Sunday, before his declaration as alliance leader, the chief minister downplayed it, saying they were the handiwork of some of his supporters.
Senior Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav had on Sunday declared that Janata Parivar parties would fight the Bihar assembly poll, due later this year, by forging an alliance of secular parties.
But it was only on Monday, after Nitish was declared CM face of the alliance, did the message emerge that the anti-BJP alliance was set to become a reality.
On April 15, six 'Janata Parivar' parties - including, JD (U), RJD and SP had announced their 'merger' to take on the NDA, with Mulayam named president of the'merged' entity.
But no merger actually took place and JD (U) and RJD had to go in for an alliance to take on the BJP in Bihar assembly poll.