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Paswan potters with prop-up options

New Delhi, Feb. 28: Government formation in Bihar is turning out to be as complicated as the verdict served up by the people with the major players refusing to budge from their stand.

As there was no forward movement in the imbroglio, a scheduled meeting among Congress boss Sonia Gandhi, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan did not take place today. They are expected here tomorrow for talks with Sonia.

Paswan, who has emerged as the likely kingmaker, complicated matters further today by writing to governor Buta Singh that his party would have nothing to do with either the BJP or the RJD.

He is adamant that he would not back an RJD-led dispensation while Laloo Prasad insists that his party being the single largest in the Assembly, the governor should invite it to form the government. A solution to the tangle would take time, sources claimed.

Muddying the waters further, Paswan opened another front, hinting at the possibility of an LJP-Janata Dal (United)-Congress alliance with some others ' amounting to over 130 members in the 243-seat Assembly ' to form a secular government. In his letter to the governor, he did not exclude the Dal(U), a part of the BJP-led combine in the state.

Paswan thinks the flock minus the RJD (75 members), the BJP (36) and the CPI(M-L) (7) ' a total of 118 ' could prop up an alternative government. But it is easier said than done.

First, with Paswan not revealing whether he would concede chief ministership to Nitish Kumar, the Dal (U) is not overtly enthusiastic, though some leaders are weighing the pros and cons. Party sources said chief George Fernandes, who is also the NDA convener, is not averse to the idea as he would welcome any arrangement to rid Bihar of Laloo-Rabri rule.

Second, the Congress is not too enthusiastic as it would mean splitting with the RJD. With trouble brewing with ally DMK, sources said the party does not want to antagonise Laloo Prasad. Third, for an LJP-Dal (U)-Congress alliance, the Dal (U) has to quit the BJP first, not an easy decision for Kumar and Fernandes.

The Congress, however, said it was committed to the formation of a secular government in Bihar. 'Congress chief Sonia Gandhi would hold talks with (Laloo Prasad) Yadav and Paswan as we are committed to a progressive secular government in the state,' party spokesperson Anand Sharma said.

Adding to the confusion, Dal (U) leader Sharad Yadav is trying to regroup the socialists to prevent the Congress from capitalising on the situation. Sources close to him said the socialists fear the Congress is surreptitiously paving way for the imposition of President's rule in the state.

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