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Lalu backs Rahul, seeks LS pie in state

Ranchi, Dec. 17: RJD chief Lalu Prasad today said he would support Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and dismissed Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, a rival for the national party’s affections, as “Nitish-fitish”.

The former Bihar chief minister, freed from Birsa Munda Central Jail on bail yesterday, will not be able to contest polls himself for the next 11 years, but he has staked claim to parliamentary seats in Jharkhand, saying the Congress and JMM should not finalise seat-sharing deals without the RJD.

Speaking at a news conference in Ranchi this morning, Lalu vowed to stop Modi and BJP in Jharkhand and Bihar, much in the way he had “halted Lal Krishna Advani’s rath yatra in 1990”.

Lalu waved away the “NaMo magic” as a hoax, while announcing he was backing Rahul for the top post.

The RJD chief urged all secular parties to put up a united fight against communal forces and predicted a Congress win.

What if the Congress, apparently leaning towards Lalu’s bęte noire Nitish, does not respond to his overtures?

An unperturbed Lalu said: “Jo jiske sath jana chahe jaye, main badhak nahi banunga. Lekin secular forces ko ek saath ana hoga. Bihar mein Nitish-fitish koi factor nahi hai ji. (Everyone is free to choose partners, I am not going to pose any hurdle… Nitish is not a factor in Bihar).”

On Rahul’s inability to steer the Congress to success in recent Assembly elections, Lalu said: “What is his fault? Rahul is a young leader and lacks in nothing to become Prime Minister.”

Asked why the Congress had not declared its prime ministerial candidate when the BJP had done so, Lalu countered: “The Congress is a mature party and understands timing well. It is anyway wrong to declare the name of PM or CM candidate before elections. The BJP was in a hurry.”

On his plan to expand RJD party base in Jharkhand, Lalu said he would raise the issue of seat sharing with the Congress at the right time. “When we (read Congress, JMM and RJD) are together in Jharkhand, we should fight polls jointly,” he told The Telegraph later.

The RJD has two ministers in the Hemant Soren-led coalition government. But during government formation in July, the Congress worked out a seat-sharing deal with JMM for Lok Sabha polls. It kept 10 seats for itself and gave four to JMM, ignoring the RJD.

Lalu, who lost his MP tag after conviction, said he would hold a “historic” rally in Patna soon. But he refused to disclose the name of a candidate from his Saran constituency.

“Tejaswi (son) is too young. It (candidature) will be decided by the party,” Lalu said.