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Lalu gives extra time to Congress

Patna, March 2: The RJD chief, Lalu Prasad, today remained firm on his 11-seat offer to the Congress but went back on his deadline, showing signs of desperation for forging an alliance.

“I appeal to AICC president Sonia Gandhi to intervene in the matter. We want an alliance but it is not our compulsion or weakness. We have a very strong base,” he said after the parliamentary board of the party authorised him to name candidates and final ties with other parties.

He stressed that the tie-up with the Congress was still “open”. “But I am going ahead with my public meetings. The Congress leaders can contact me over phone,” he said.

The prolonged wait and stalemate have already cost Lalu a valuable ally in the form of LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan, who joined the NDA. The RJD chief has now thrown the onus of a future alliance in Bihar on the Congress, refusing to budge from his offer of 11 seats to the latter and one to the NCP.

Lalu had yesterday given the Congress time till today to take a decision on his offer. But today he decided to proceed on electioneering, giving the grand old party the option of getting in touch with him.

The RJD chief would address a public meeting on Monday in Nawada, one of the seats demanded by the Congress. He would address 12 rallies between March 5 and 8 in different places, including Sasaram — a reserved seat represented by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.

“It will be a warning to the Congress. She cannot possibly win without Yadav votes,” said a senior RJD leader, stressing that the party would wait for some more time for the Congress.

The RJD was initially shaken by reports that the Congress had opened a channel with the JD(U) for a possible alliance in the Lok Sabha polls after Lalu refused to concede more seats. However, there was euphoria as chief minister Nitish Kumar declared that there was no question of going with the Congress.

With the JD(U) refusing any kind of alliance with the Congress, the RJD leaders are confident the Congress would agree to their offer. “There are indications that Congress leader Shakeel Ahmad has agreed to forego his claim on Madhubani,” said an RJD leader.

Lalu said: “I have given the Congress the maximum number of seats I could. The condition on offering seats is winnability.”

He stressed that his party does not change its agenda repeatedly and does not believe in pseudo-secularism.