The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia at Surjeet door for leash on Laloo

New Delhi, May 24: Hassled by Laloo Prasad Yadav’s constant needling of Ram Vilas Paswan since the Bihar Assembly dissolution, Sonia Gandhi today rushed to CPM veteran H.S. Surjeet and requested him to rein in the railway minister.

In a 30-minute meeting this evening at his home, Sonia is believed to have told Surjeet that letting Laloo Prasad alienate Lok Janshakti Party chief Paswan would not serve the UPA’s interests in the battle for Bihar as it would split the secular votes.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal chief is known to share a special equation with the CPM leadership.

Sources said Sonia spoke of the need for all UPA allies to come together in Bihar to take on the BJP-led Opposition. She said Paswan’s importance should not be underestimated and nothing should be done that would make it impossible for the RJD and LJP to patch up for the elections.

After the Bihar House was dissolved yesterday, Laloo Prasad had “mourned the death of Paswan’s LJP” and poked fun at him saying his MLAs had run away with his “key” to forming the Bihar government.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today defended the dissolution saying the Centre had “credible evidence” of the “nefarious activities” taking place in the state.

“Three months have passed since elections in Bihar and no government was being formed. So an atmosphere was created in which horse-trading of the worst kind was taking place.

“In this situation, it is the constitutional duty of the government to see that such nefarious activities do not spoil the good image of the country,” he said in a news conference at the end of his Ranthambore visit.

The Prime Minister said Bihar governor Buta Singh had “recommended to the Centre that there was no alternative but to dissolve the Assembly”. Even newspapers had reported large-scale horse-trading in the past few days, he said.

More than one report on the situation in Bihar had been handed in by the governor, he said. “So, I think, we had credible evidence.... There was no other way to deal with the problem than dissolve the Assembly.”

Legally, dissolving an Assembly on the basis of notional horse-trading is untenable. Unless there is proof ' a videograph or a photograph 'of legislators taking bribe or bargaining to switch sides, the case could become unwieldy if challenged in court.

In the BJP, there was apparent confusion on whether to go to court. In a news conference this morning, party chief L.K. Advani once said “the matter will go to court” and later that it “is being examined at all levels”.

BJP vice-president Venkaiah Naidu, too, said options were being weighed as legal advisers felt the “aggrieved” Bihar MLAs should directly challenge the dissolution in court.

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