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Paswan set for BJP embrace

New Delhi, Feb. 26: Ram Vilas Paswan today gave the clearest hint yet that a tie-up with the BJP had been all but sealed, saying his party was looking for an “alternative alliance” as talks with Lalu Prasad and the Congress had reached a deadlock.

The Lok Janshakti Party leader, whom the BJP has been courting as part of its efforts to reach out to Bihar’s Dalit voters, said he was following the decision of his party, which was like his “mother”, as he sought to justify renewing his link with the NDA.

Paswan, however, deferred a formal announcement though BJP sources said the alliance was virtually sealed and both parties were looking for a suitable date and setting to announce the tie-up.

According to insiders, the BJP has agreed to spare the LJP seven Lok Sabha seats out of the 40 in the state.

Sources said Narendra Modi was likely to meet Paswan in Delhi tomorrow and the two could make a mega stage appearance at the BJP mascot’s March 3 rally in Muzaffarpur.

Paswan said his party had assigned him the job of looking for an “alternative alliance” as the partnership with the RJD and the Congress had reached a deadlock.

“On the one hand, there is personal emotion. On the other, there is the party. The party is like my mother and its decision is binding,” Paswan said, asked about the likely tie-up with the NDA that he quit after the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Paswan’s son Chirag, the LJP’s parliamentary board chairman who is all set to take over the party command, set the line while the father appeared to be endorsing it, even if reluctantly.

Asked if the party could tie up with the BJP, Chirag said: “All options are now open.”

Paswan, who spoke after his son, found it tough to handle questions on the BJP that he had once attacked for pursuing a “communal” agenda.

“The LJP will stick to its ideology. There is no need to tell the world that Ram Vilas Paswan is secular. Our party has suffered hugely for the cause of secularism. I had left the NDA when such an occasion arose,” he said, asked how he would justify his secular ideology if his party tied up with the BJP.

Paswan blamed the Congress and the RJD for the break-up of what had been projected to be a “secular” alliance. While the Congress was not serious about his request to take the lead in firming up the alliance, the RJD, he said, was disrespectful. “They (the RJD) assumed that the LJP is nothing. If one takes 25 seats and the other 15, then it means they do not treat the LJP as part of the alliance.”