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I got this working by collating a couple of docs on networking and ad-hoc mode. On both the laptops, I executed the command sequence (of course with different static ip).

systemctl disable NetworkManager.service 
ip link set wlp4s0 down
iwconfig wlp4s0 mode ad-hoc
iwconfig wlp4s0 essid 'll2'
iwconfig wlp4s0 key 1234567890
iwconfig wlp4s0 channel 4
ip link set wlp4s0 up
ip addr add dev wlp4s0