Just hours before Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar announced that their Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and Janata Dal (United) will contest the forthcoming Bihar assembly elections as alliance partners, posters depicting Nitish as the future chief minister were put up in Patna.
JD(U) activists put up huge hoardings of Nitish Kumar in Patna to send out a message to the RJD that there would be no compromise on the leadership issue "as people wanted him to lead Bihar once again".
The posters appearing on main thoroughfares were clearly meant to embarrass RJD leadership, which had been opposing his projection as the alliance's chief ministerial candidate.
The posters read: "Aage badhata rahe Bihar, phir ek baar Nitish Kumar (Bihar needs Nitish Kumar again for its rapid development)".
Even though the RJD and the JD(U) said on Sunday they will contest the polls in alliance , there was no clarity over chief ministership and seat sharing. The two issues have emerged as bones of contention in a proposed a “secular” alliance to thwart the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) juggernaut.
The JD(U) leaders officially denied having put up the posters and tried to play it down claiming that they might have been displayed by Nitish's supporters as their personal initiative.
"But the posters are an expression of popular sentiment," said a JD(U) leader.
Top leaders of the two parties held meetings in New Delhi to make a last-ditch effort to clinch the deal, but issues of seat sharing and the choice of the grouping's chief ministerial face remain unresolved.
"Even if the deal is struck between the two parties, there will be no compromise on the leadership issue. If the RJD is willing to accept Kumar's leadership, we will welcome it otherwise we will look for other alternatives. We can explore the possibilities of having a tie-up with Congress and CPI," a senior JD (U) leader said.
After a two-hour long meeting of the two leaders at Mulayam Singh Yadav's residence on Sunday, senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Ram Gopal Yadav said that a six-member committee would thrash out the seat sharing arrangement for Bihar.
Both leaders are also exploring alternative alliance options.
While Prasad has been flirting with Kumar's protégé-turned-foe Jitan Ram Manjhi, Nitish called on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday morning to discuss the possibility of an alternative JD(U)-Congress tie-up.
The Congress vice-president favours a "grand alliance", but has assured Kumar of the Congress support — as a second option, sources said.
Nitish's meeting with Rahul is being seen as pressure building tactics in his negotiations with the RJD.
The alliance prospects are expected to be clearer on Monday after Prasad's scheduled meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Reacting to the announcement, Ram Vilas Paswan - Union minister and leader of Lok Janshakti Party, a key NDA ally - ridiculed the alliance saying it will not succeed as it was a step taken out of desperation.
"This alliance is just aimed at putting up a show before the media. This is an alliance in which both (Prasad and Kumar) will meet with a knife in their hands and backstab each other," Paswan said.