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Lalu in no hurry to save Nitish

Patna, June 15: The road for Nitish Kumar’s possible patch-up with Lalu Prasad does not seem to be a smooth one.

A day after Nitish made a public appeal to the RJD chief to support his candidates in the Rajya Sabha polls, Lalu remained non-committal. “Nitish is looking for a fire-tender to douse flames lit by his own MLAs,” he said on arrival in Patna from Delhi today.

Lalu declared he was going to Muzaffarpur to visit children suffering from suspected acute encephalitis syndrome. “The Rajya Sabha polls are my second priority. I will hold a meeting of my MLAs on June 17 to discuss it,” he said. “I have told Nitish something,” he said, but did not elaborate.

RJD sources said Lalu faces a Hobson’s choice in extending support to JDU. “While we do not want Assembly elections immediately, supporting the JDU can split our own MLAs. A few of them plan to contest on a BJP ticket. Laluji realises that transforming this support into an alliance is fraught with risks as we are unsure how the cadre would react. Also finalising seat-sharing will prove difficult,” said a senior RJD leader. However, most RJD leaders believe Lalu would ultimately support JDU candidates after giving Nitish “few anxious moments”.

The BJP, too, is holding its cards close to its chest. “The BJP is playing a dirty game by introducing horse-trading in Bihar. Our dissidents have fielded Independent MLAs at the BJP’s behest. Yet the BJP has not cleared its stance on Rajya Sabha bypolls,” said water resources minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary.

Sushil Modi said a final call would be taken at a meeting on June 18. The BJP will participate in voting only if convinced Independents Anil Kumar Sharma and Sabir Ali have a chance of winning. Right now nobody is sure on the number of dissidents.