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N-M secular pact against NaMo, Cong

New Delhi/Ranchi, Dec. 24: Bihar chief minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar, snubbed by the Congress in favour of RJD boss Lalu Prasad, met JVM president and former Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi in the national capital this evening to confabulate on what seems to be another secular alliance before Lok Sabha elections in 2014.

Marandi was called for the closed-door meeting at a New Delhi hotel on short notice by Nitish to discuss modalities of the alliance, including seat-sharing agreement between the JD(U) and JVM in Bihar and Jharkhand.

Though no party leaders agreed to come on record regarding the meeting’s agenda, insiders said Nitish, who got a jolt after being thwarted by the Congress, was now keen to find “like-minded allies” in states where the JD(U) wanted to strengthen its presence.

In Jharkhand, JVM has a similar agenda. The party, which holds two Lok Sabha and 11 Assembly seats, is looking to consolidate its Koiri-Kurmi votebank by tying up with JD(U) that has two Assembly seats.

“Marandi hurriedly reached Delhi today to meet Nitish though the former is scheduled to attend an event in his constituency Koderma tomorrow. The discussion between Nitish and Marandi centred on how two parties could be in synergy before polls. While Nitish is keen to make the presence of JD(U) stronger in Jharkhand by tying up with the tribal leader, Marandi thinks a JVM-JD(U) alliance will increase his party’s share of OBC voters. A formal announcement will come later,” a JD(U) leader said.

JVM sources said the regional party was buoyed by an internal survey that showed it could win at least four seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Jharkhand.

JVM claims to have a block-level office in every part of the state — a feat unmatched by any other political party in Jharkhand.

Nitish, on the other hand, needs friends like Marandi. Though the tie-up with JVM may not make a significant dent in Bihar, the JD(U) leader is hoping that joining hands with a “clean tribal leader” like Marandi would send out positive vibes.

The JD(U) and JVM are also carefully working on a list of other political forces that they need to woo to keep BJP’s NaMo and Congress at bay.

JVM leaders expressed confidence in the alliance. “Both parties have similar ideologies and if we unite we can teach an apt lesson to both the BJP and Congress,” said outspoken JVM principal general secretary Pradip Yadav.

Yadav added efforts were on to forge alliances with BJD in Odisha, Trinamool Congress in Bengal, Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and “other secular forces” across the country to form a strong third front in national politics.

JD(U) Jharkhand state unit chief Gopal Krishna Patar alias Raja Peter claimed the alliance was kept with Lok Sabha polls in mind. “If the experiment is successful, the pact will continue,” he said.

Rivals have reacted on expected lines.

“The way Babulal Marandi showed his eagerness to cobble an alliance with a party like JD(U), it shows he has no strength to go to polls alone. The JD(U) is the most unreliable and self-serving party. Marandi should have opted for better alternatives,” said Sunil Singh, state general secretary of the BJP, JD(U) ally-turned-bitter rival.

On Nitish’s prospects in Bihar, Singh toed his party’s official line. “Nitish is a spent force in Bihar,” he said.

Geeta Koda decision

Geeta Koda, Jagannathpur MLA and wife of former chief minister Madhu Koda, will join Congress on Saturday. Former IAS officer of Manipur cadre Vinod Kispotta is also scheduled to join the party.