New Delhi, May 21: The “queen-maker” kept the king-to-be on tenterhooks all day.
On the eve of his swearing-in, Prime Minister-elect Manmohan Singh was handed a wish list by Laloo Prasad Yadav. The Rashtriya Janata Dal chief would not comment on the contents, nor would Congress leaders.
But RJD sources said Laloo Prasad was trying to do a Chandrababu Naidu — who did not join the Vajpayee government but played a key role behind the scenes. The sources said after the Congress rejected his demand for the home portfolio, Laloo Prasad asked for the railway ministry.
Laloo Prasad, who left for Patna in a huff yesterday after power-share talks made no headway, returned to Delhi this afternoon and plunged into confabulations with Congress and alliance leaders, fuelling speculation that a mini crisis was brewing.
The RJD leader, who had earlier said he would play queen-maker in Delhi, drove to Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar’s residence. He also met Congress leaders Arjun Singh, R.K. Dhawan and Kapil Sibal, while Pranab Mukherjee and Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel held talks with him at Pawar’s house twice.
Sibal said Laloo Prasad’s “suggestions” were “sensitive to the government formation process”, but refused to describe them as conditions.
After the meetings, Laloo Prasad said: “I have given them the suggestions, it is up to them to consider.”
“There has been some progress (in the talks),” the Bihar leader added.
According to unconfirmed reports, apart from six ministerial berths, he has demanded that the new government bail him out of the fodder scam case and award a package to Bihar to compensate for the loss of Jharkhand.
The RJD chief denied that he had left Delhi abruptly yesterday. “I am not upset. I am not Mamata Banerjee that I will leave in a huff. I am going to attend the swearing-in ceremony,” he said.
The former Bihar chief minister added that he was looking for a firm commitment on a package for his state and not a mere assurance.
Sources close to Laloo Prasad said he wants a hefty package and plum ministries as he is planning to advance the state elections. They said he also feels his party could win all the three Lok Sabha seats — Chhapra, Siwan and Bettiah, where fresh polls will be held — if the Centre gives him a good deal.