The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Time ripe for third option: Paswan

Patna, March 6: The man being blamed for pushing Bihar into central rule is not just unfazed but ready to accept every bit of responsibility for it.

'I take full responsibility,' Lok Janshakti Party president Ram Vilas Paswan, whose 29 MLAs can tilt the balance in Bihar, said today after refusing to support either Laloo Prasad Yadav or the BJP-led alliance.

'We had the necessary numbers but we were not ready to compromise on our stand against the Rashtriya Janata Dal or the BJP. Both parties were capable of triggering communal riots in desperation had either of them not been part of the new government. Then, too, I would have been blamed. I am accountable to the people of Bihar, not to two parties who could have wreaked havoc,' Paswan said.

'Central rule is not an end in itself. It is part of a political process that I started. The first chapter dealt with keeping the NDA off the reigns of power in New Delhi. The second chapter was to ensure the defeat of the RJD and rid Bihar of its 15-year misrule. Both my objectives have been fulfilled. The space is now ready for the formation of a non-RJD, non-BJP government in Bihar,' Paswan said.

The LJP leader asserted that such a 'secular' government was still possible. 'If we exclude the 112 MLAs of the RJD and the BJP, 131 legislators are still left. Only 122 members are needed for the formation of a new government. Let this option be debated at length. A Muslim should be appointed the chief minister. That is my only condition,' he said.

Paswan claimed that the group of 131 is not as disparate as it looked. 'Secular credentials and opposition to the RJD are their cementing force. Now we have the time to work out the details of this arrangement. Why is the RJD so perturbed with the imposition of central rule' After all, it is the UPA that is in power at the Centre,' he said.

The LJP president had created a storm when, midway through the election, he 'predicted' that Bihar was headed for President's rule.

'My role was to break the Muslim-Yadav rock that provided smooth sailing waters to the RJD all these years. My instinct told me about the nature of the mandate and that is why I talked about central rule. I made my inclination for a Muslim chief minister very evident. Yet, Laloo Prasad got his wife elected as the legislature party leader,' Paswan said.

But RJD spokesperson Shivanand Tiwary, who described the situation as 'unfortunate', said all other parties were more interested in not letting his party face a majority test on the floor of the Assembly.

BJP vice-president Sushil Kumar Modi said the NDA was 'flexible and accommodative' but the LJP played spoilsport 'for reasons best known to Paswan'.

'Bihar has been denied a good government because of the LJP president. Even now we appeal to Paswan to leave the UPA and join hands with the NDA to provide a government to the state,' Modi said.

Paswan said the 'third alternative' was workable because the CPI-ML was ready to support it from outside.

'The Congress would have taken a positive stand. Smaller parties like the CPI, CPM, BSP, SP and the NCP would have gladly joined hands because everyone wanted to keep the RJD out. Everything is yet not over,' he added.

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