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Ties revival rests with Rahul

Rahul Gandhi waves at supporters during an election campaign in Williamnagar, Meghalaya, on Wednesday. (PTI)

Patna, Feb. 20: Rahul Gandhi has taken up the task to decide on an alliance with the RJD-LJP combine ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

“Beginning with the Congress’s Jaipur session last month, Rahul has so far met 30 to 35 party leaders from the state to solicit their views about a possible alliance with the RJD and the LJP,” senior Congress leader Harkhu Jha told The Telegraph.

He, however, refused to reveal what transpired between the leaders and the party vice-president.

According to sources, the Nehru-Gandhi scion has met only AICC delegates from Bihar to discuss the issue. The state has altogether 134 AICC delegates — 99 of whom are elected and 35 co-opted. He has also met Congress legislator party leader Sadanand Singh and outgoing state unit chief Mehboob Ali Kaiser.

Sources among those who met Rahul said most Congress leaders, particularly who had been MPs and MLAs and are willing to contest the coming elections, advocated for the alliance with the RJD-LJP combine. Their logic is that Lalu Prasad had been a “trusted ally” all through and his RJD was still endowed with a “formidable” mass base. Moreover, Lalu symbolised the prime opposition in the state and was the “only leader” in a position to exploit on the anti-incumbency factors catching up with the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government in Bihar, they further argued.

The sources added that a section of Congress leaders — mainly drawn from the upper caste Bhumihar lobby — was opposed to an alliance with Lalu on the ground that the JD(U)-BJP alliance was on the “brink” on the issue of projecting Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate. The section felt that Nitish’’s JD(U) might extend support to the UPA in New Delhi if its ties with the BJP snapped.

However, the lobby in the Congress favouring ties with the JD(U) was believed to be in minority. Rahul reportedly countered the Congress leaders favouring an alliance with the RJD as to why they wanted the understanding despite opposing the central leadership grouping up with Lalu in the late 1990s.

In reply to Rahul’s question, the alliance protagonists reportedly argued that the Congress high command had formed an alliance with Lalu when he was getting “discredited” and was “losing fast on the popularity count” in the state. One of them said: “The Congress had to tolerate people’s anger against Lalu then. But with the NDA in the saddle for seven years in the state, the Nitish regime is now at the centre of people’s grievances whereas Lalu has, of late, been pulling impressive crowd.”

The sources added that the state Congress leaders urged Rahul not to field any candidate against the RJD for the by-election to the Maharajganj Lok Sabha seat. The seat had fallen vacant following the death of RJD’s Umashankar Singh.

On Rahul’s response, a source said: “He is in the process of consulting the Congress leaders from the state and is yet to take a final call. We can at the best say that the issue of the alliance with the RJD-LJP combine is pending with the party high command (read Rahul Gandhi).”

The RJD-Congress ties had snapped ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when Lalu Prasad had “humiliated” the Congress by allowing the national party to contest only four seats.