JD-U chief Sharad Yadav and RJD chief Lalu Prasad during an event to celebrate Makar Sankranti festival in Patna on Wednesday. (PTI)
With his role considered important in the unified Janata Parivar ahead of the crucial Bihar Assembly elections, leaders from partner parties made a beeline at the feast hosted by RJD president Lalu Prasad on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
The 10, Circular Road residence of former chief minister Rabri Devi, where Mr Prasad had thrown his Sankranti feast, was abuzz with activity.
JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, INLD chief Abhay Chautala, JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi and Uttar Pradesh minister Om Prakash Singh representing Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav exchanged bonhomie over 'Dahi Chura' (flattened rice and curd), the customary food on Sankranti at Lalu's feast. Senior JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar was, however, missing as he was indisposed and taking rest.
Later, Mr Prasad paid a visit to Mr Kumar and said, "There is no distance between me and Nitish Kumar."
Former Union minister Prem Chand Gupta and a host of RJD leaders played host at the feast, which saw party workers swarming the venue from across the state.
Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi was the first VIP to arrive at the venue in the morning. Mr Prasad received him warmly and got him seated with another JD(U) leader and Public Health Engineering Department minister Mahachandra Prasad Singh and former RJD MP from Saran Prabhunath Singh.
The RJD supremo himself took charge to serve curd and jaggery to Mr Manjhi and other leaders.
Dodging questions on the proposed merger, he told reporters, "Why are you all interested in it? It's Makar Sankranti. Our ancestors celebrated it as New Year. Eat food here and enjoy it," but later on said, "The Janata Dal Parivar parties are going to combine, you can understand it has happened."
Mr Prasad, however, refused to make a formal announcement about it.
"We have authorised SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav to announce about the merger. We all will not speak about it," he said adding, all parties were together in it and more would be added in future.
The RJD chief, known for his rustic style, did not miss the occasion to take potshots at the BJP during his interactions.
"It is the BJP, which is talking about us having technical difficulties in the merger. Our move is causing them serious pain," he said.
Pointing out that whole of Patna was stinking with garbage and filth, Mr Prasad said the BJP was not cleaning it despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Clean India campaign.
"Whether the state government cleans the city or not, the BJP leaders should have done it. Even the banks of the Ganga are so dirty. This reveals that all hue and cry by Modi over cleanliness is just a show," he said.
The RJD leader also hit out at senior state BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, saying he seemed to be more concerned about the Janata Parivar merger than his own party's business.
"Has Sushil Modi left BJP and become a spokesperson of Mulayam Singh Yadav," he retorted.
Mr Prasad briefly left to attend the Makar Sankranti feast of JD(U) and returned to welcome Sharad Yadav, K C Tyagi, Abhay Chautala and others who had arrived in his absence.
State Congress president Ashok Kumar Chaudhary and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sadanand Singh also arrived to participate in the feast.
JD(U) leaders, ministers, MLAs including Ramai Ram, Shyam Rajak, Ranju Geeta, Poonam Devi Yadav and others were among those leaders who attended the feast at Rabri Devi's house.