The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Laloo shakes up Old Monk

New Delhi, March 7: Laloo Prasad Yadav is angry but his wit still flows, smooth as the finest liquor.

Old Monk ' Laloo Prasad meant, but did not name, Arjun Singh and Makhan Lal Fotedar ' may not quite rank in that category but that's for Sonia Gandhi to decide.

'I will tell Sonia Gandhi about these Old Monks, but now is not the time,' said Laloo Prasad, who met the Congress president today.

With his Rashtriya Janata Dal's 15-year rule coming to an end in Patna, the Bihar leader took a few swings of his verbal fist at Ram Vilas Paswan, calling him a 'pendulum', swinging between the secular and the saffron.

Between the epithets of Old Monks and pendulum, Laloo Prasad was careful. 'She is a sharif mahila, desh ki neta (She is a decent lady, a national leader),' he replied when asked if he would hold her responsible for the fiasco.

He was cautious on Paswan, too, despite the Lok Janshakti Party leader ' though a part of the same alliance in Delhi ' refusing to join him in forming a coalition in Patna. And the United Progressive Alliance, which, he said, he would not rock.

To persistent questions whether he would demand Paswan's sacking from the cabinet, Laloo Prasad replied: 'I will not demand. I am not a non-political person. We are in the UPA. He is also in the UPA. We will not harm the health of UPA. If we have lost, it is because of our people.'

'Some Congress leaders, I will tell Sonia Gandhi' harmed me in Bihar. Congress mein think tank bahut hai.'

These are the people he referred to as 'Old Monks'. Laloo Prasad did not utter the names but senior Congressmen Arjun Singh and Fotedar were put in charge of working out the seat-sharing deal in Bihar. At the end of it, the combine that won the Lok Sabha polls last year in Bihar fought the Assembly elections separately, leading to a hung House.

Laloo Prasad also suspects the duo of backing Paswan. He was less careful about going after Mulayam Singh Yadav for the same reason, threatening to puncture his 'bicycle', the Samajwadi Party's election symbol.

The Bihar leader, who arrived in the afternoon and left for Patna by the late evening flight, was in a foul mood throughout as he made his calls on Sonia, home minister Shivraj Patil and CPM leaders H.S. Surjeet and Sitaram Yechury. He made his irascibility evident before meeting Sonia.

Seeing a bunch of television cameras at his Rail Bhavan office, Laloo Prasad asked: 'What is this' How many times will I talk' I will not talk to you separately. Don't try to become experts, ask a joint question.' Settling down on a sofa, he then tried to mislead the media. 'I am going to 10 Janpath at 6.30 pm to meet the Congress president.'

But after talking to reporters around 5 pm, he went straight to Surjeet's house and then to the office of the National Advisory Council at 2 Motilal Nehru Marg to meet Sonia.

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