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New friendship a blow for Lalu

New Delhi, Jan. 1: The New Year could well bring with it a surprising political alliance in Bihar with the ruling JD(U) joining hands with Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP, making it even more difficult for Lalu Prasad looking to fortify positions before Lok Sabha elections.

The alliance, likely to be formally announced later this week, was discussed between seniors of the two parties in the last few days.

A senior JD(U) leader, who did not wish to be named, said that although Paswan and chief minister Nitish Kumar had not met yet, leaders of the two parties had been in touch in the capital over the last few weeks. “The tie-up is likely to be declared soon. We have no problems with Paswan or his party in the state and are ready to join hands with them. We wanted an alliance to counter the BJP and at the same time form a formidable front against Lalu Prasad’s RJD. Hence this combination is emerging,” he told The Telegraph.

He claimed a section within the LJP, including Ram Vilas’ son, was wary of being overshadowed by Lalu, “stigmatised” by his conviction in a fodder scam case.

LJP is understood to have got inclined towards JD(U) after seat-sharing talks with RJD and its likely partner, the Congress, did not materialise. “Also, the party’s poor performance in the state during the last Lok Sabha elections — even party chief Paswan lost his traditional Hajipur constituency — when it partnered Lalu against the NDA is something that has been looming large on the minds of LJP leaders,” said a party leader.

Ever since his conviction and subsequent bail, Lalu has been trying to make most of a weakened JD(U) by strengthening the long-standing alliance among Congress and LJP.

JD(U), on the other hand, has also been trying to strengthen its Dalit vote bank to offset the disadvantage of Nitish Kumar breaking his 17-year-old alliance with the BJP.

Both parties had been giving feelers to the LJP. While RJD had tried to maintain that its alliance with LJP was strong, JD(U) had been sending out feelers Paswan’s party.

“Though Paswan commands only about 5 per cent votes — primarily Paswan Dalits in Bihar — his secular credentials have given him new-found importance in the light of Narendra Modi’s projection as BJP’s PM candidate,” the JD(U) leader remarked.

In 2004, Congress, RJD and LJP contested Lok Sabha elections in an alliance winning 29 out of the 40 seats in Bihar. However, the alliance broke up in 2009 when RJD decided to offer three seats to Congress, 12 to LJP and keep 25 for itself.

The collapse caused losses for all three parties. RJD had contested 28 seats, but could win four. Congress, which sought eight to 10 seats, is rooting for 15 this time. LJP, which fought 12 seats in the last polls, is not ready to scale down its demand below 10 seats.

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