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Paswan in Catch-22 situation over alliance

Patna, Jan. 2: Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan appears to be in a Catch-22 situation over whom to ally with in the Lok Sabha elections.

The grapevine has it that notwithstanding Rahul Gandhi’s “reservations” on Lalu Prasad, a section in the Congress top brass is mulling over stitching together an alliance in Bihar on the Jharkhand model. By that model, the Congress might tell the RJD to spare around 15 of Bihar’s 40 seats for the Congress. “The Congress will then spare seats from its quota to the LJP. The idea is in a preliminary stage,” said a senior AICC strategist, adding, “It works in Jharkhand.”

In Jharkhand, the Congress and the JMM are learnt to have shared the state’s 14 Lok Sabha seats 10:4 (Congress has 10 and JMM 4). The Congress has the onus of sharing its quota of seats with the RJD or “whoever it considers worthy of alliance”. Even the government Hemant Soren heads in Jharkhand is a coalition of the Congress, JMM and RJD.

If it works in Jharkhand, it should work in Bihar too. What puts LJP chief Paswan in a quandary is a “rider” the Congress leadership has introduced at Rahul Gandhi’s behest — No alliance partner should field candidates having corrupt or criminal antecedents. Now, the LJP has Surajbhan Singh and Rama Singh, whose brush with the law could embarrass the party as they aspire to contest the Lok Sabha polls. LJP sources said the two are strongly opposed to the Congress-LJP-RJD alliance, as they fear it would deprive them of tickets to contest.

A dominant section in the LJP, led by Surajbhan and Rama, favours the party breaking up with the RJD and allying with the JD(U) instead. They argue that a Nitish Kumar hunting for “secular” allies after dumping the BJP might not object to whom Paswan fields in the seats allotted to him. After all the JD(U) itself has, of late, inducted some people with controversial records.

While a section of JD(U) and LJP leaders are involved behind-the-scenes to bring the two parties together, it may not be an easy call for Paswan to take. “Ram Vilasji has vociferously opposed Nitish for over seven years.

“Besides, people from his caste, the Paswans, are strongly opposed to Nitish for neglecting them in the Maha Dalit Commission. It would be suicidal for Paswan to ally with the JD(U) at this stage,” RJD secretary general Ramkripal Yadav said, asserting that there was no question of the LJP drifting away from the RJD and the Congress.

No senior Congress leader was willing to comment on the Jharkhand formula being repeated. But Congress legislature party leader in the Assembly, Sadanand Singh, said: “In this era of coalitions, the party will forge an alliance with like-minded secular parties. The party will take appropriate decision at an appropriate time.” Sadanand refused to comment on the recent Sonia Gandhi-Lalu Prasad meeting.