The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP suspense in Paswan-Nitish push

Patna/New Delhi, April 2: The Janata Dal (United) today sent letters to six parties and 17 Independents to join hands for a non-RJD government in Bihar, but a cloud of uncertainty remained over whether it would eventually sever ties with the BJP-led alliance.

The BJP also added to the confusion, saying the National Democratic Alliance had 'authorised' Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar to work out modalities of forming a government and his efforts, therefore, had its full backing.

'My party has authorised me to hold talks with different parties on the possibility of formation of a popular government for making a development-oriented, secular, caste-less and modern Bihar. We will be waiting for your opinion and suggestions and also for a discussion with you,' Nitish wrote in the letter to the Lok Janshakti Party, CPI, CPI-ML, Samajwadi Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Independents.

But LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, whose 29 MLAs can break the deadlock in now central-ruled Bihar, said his party would not compromise on its stand of not seeking support from either the BJP or Laloo Prasad Yadav's RJD.

'I asked Kumar to part company with the saffron party and bring together a majority with non-RJD and non-BJP parties to form a popular government,' he said. The smaller parties, whose support Nitish is claiming, have also echoed the same demand.

In Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who returned from Mauritius, said the situation in Bihar was 'under watch'.

Nitish today claimed he had the support of as many as 120 MLAs ' two short of majority in the 243-member House. But a non-RJD, non-BJP government is possible only if the Dal (U) quits the NDA or the LJP leaves the United Progressive Alliance.

A BSP leader underlined the chaos when he said there was 'no question' of supporting Paswan as chief minister. 'As for government formation, we have given a letter of support to the RJD. As for current developments, we are closely watching the situation.'

Nitish, who said he and Paswan 'had some serious talk' when they met this morning at the residence of state Samajwadi Party president Dadan Pehalwan, did not comment on his 'game plan' any further. But Dal (U) sources said the entire scheme was based on the assumption that the BJP would provide support from outside to any non-RJD formation.

'We have written to the various parties in our capacity as an Independent political party. Although the BJP is not a part of this effort, I am certain that it will not pose hindrance in any manner,' Nitish said.

As if taking a cue from him, BJP vice-president Sushil Modi said Nitish's efforts had the full support of his party.

A Dal (U) leader said a script (with BJP knowledge) is ready according to which NDA convener George Fernandes, who is also president of the Dal (U), might make a statement saying there is no NDA in Bihar and the party is free to chart its own course. The move is intended as a face-saver for Paswan.

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