The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paswan in top-seat jam

New Delhi, March 5: Till a few days ago, Ram Vilas Paswan was the kingmaker. Today, he is in a jam.

Paswan and his supporters had thought the fractured verdict in Bihar would catapult him into the chief minister's chair, but several hurdles have come his way.

With the Congress not playing ball and the Rashtriya Janata Dal pressing its claims to form the government, one option before the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief is to quit the United Progressive Alliance and join hands with the BJP-led NDA. He could then either become 'king' ' if the NDA is willing ' or play 'kingmaker'.

The other option is to stick to his stand of equi-distance from the RJD and the NDA and wait for President's rule.

Although Paswan has been vociferous that he would have no truck with NDA, the fact that he surreptitiously met senior Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav last night is indication that he may be considering leaving the UPA.

The LJP chief denied that he called on Sharad Yadav, but informed Dal(U) sources confirmed the meeting.

Sources said Paswan is under pressure from the majority of his party's legislators, who belong to the upper castes and are Laloo-baiters, to tie up with the NDA.

Going back to the NDA will mean squandering all the goodwill he had earned among Muslims by walking out of the BJP-led alliance at the Centre after the Gujarat riots.

Also, his long-term political goal is to do a Laloo in Bihar ' craft a 'DM' (Dalit-Muslim) alliance to puncture the RJD chief's formidable 'MY' (Muslim-Yadav) combination ' which is possible only if Paswan remains with the Congress-led alliance.

But the LJP chief is in a bind as he does not want a hostile RJD government in Patna at any cost and is also worried about a long spell of President's rule. Using his clout in Delhi, Laloo Prasad could create problems for him and his supporters, some of who have criminal antecedents, in the event of Central rule, he fears.

Before leaving for Patna today, Paswan said he was in favour of a Muslim chief minister.

Bhajan mellows

Congress leader Bhajan Lal, who threatened rebellion yesterday after losing the Haryana chief minister's chair to arch rival Bhupinder Singh Hooda, backed down today.

Hooda called on him before heading to Chandigarh for the swearing-in and fell at his feet to seek his blessings. Afterwards, Lal said: 'The Hooda government will be completely stable. I will offer full co-operation to it. I will follow whatever is the directive given by the party high command.'

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