The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Discontent flutter in Paswan flock

Patna, March 7: Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan might claim 'rock solid unity' among his 29 MLAs but signals outside the plush hotel he is staying in suggest otherwise.

With the amended anti-defection law giving two-thirds legislators of one party the option to 'merge' with another without fear of disqualification, bets are being hedged that Paswan might lose his flock to either the Rashtriya Janata Dal or the Janata Dal (United).

Paragraph 4 of the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) says legislators of a political party will not be disqualified if they 'merge' with another party provided their number is not less than two-thirds of the strength of the original party.

But Paswan has denied any 'uneasiness' within his pack. 'Our behaviour has been most democratic. All of us (29 legislators) meet for two hours every day and every decision is taken unanimously. Each legislator has supported our stand of keeping off the RJD and the BJP and no voice of protest has been raised,' he claimed.

However, an LJP leader who did not wish to be named said: 'When we went into the elections, participating in government or even sitting in Opposition was at the back of our minds. But circumstances forced us to opt for President's rule.

'Even Paswan has been saying this is not our final position in the hung Assembly and there is scope for formation of a government. Obviously then, no option should be ruled out.'

Paswan stressed that all possibilities of forming an alternative government should be explored. 'We have elected Ramashray Prasad Singh as the leader of our legislature party.

'Is it not enough to say that I will not be chief minister during the term of the 13th Assembly' Our opponents have been spreading baseless theories about our MLAs not being united,' he said.

Renewing his offer of chief ministership to the Dal (U), Paswan said: 'I offer to the JD (U) the post of chief minister provided it agrees to break away from the BJP and evolve a consensus on a minority leader.'

Paswan also castigated Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar for keeping mum after the results were declared. 'I am not the villain but Kumar, who is responsible for pushing the state to this situation.'

The LJP leader said the legislators had not been elected 'at such expense and after so much tribulation' to be kept hanging because no government can be formed.

'We have to assess the advantages of continuing in the present situation both in the short and long term. I am not certain but the propaganda about the LJP being responsible for the mess could backfire as well. The imposition of central rule will give us time to think about the pros and cons,' he said.

JP parallel

The BJP said Paswan had missed an opportunity to join the ranks of Ram Manohar Lohia and Jai Prakash Narayan, among the most revered leaders in Bihar.

State unit chief Gopal Narayan Singh said Paswan could have emulated them by dumping the UPA and joining hands with the NDA to prop up a government.

'In 1966-67, Lohia had worked to bring together the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (later BJP) and the communists for the formation of a non-Congress government in Bihar.

In 1977, Jai Prakash Narayan worked the same wonder at the Centre and the Janata Party government came to office. Members of the erstwhile Jan Sangh were a part of it,' he said.

A similar opportunity had awaited Paswan, he said. 'That the RJD has ruined Bihar was the common element between the NDA and the LJP'. Paswan should have risen above petty motives and offered to provide a strong alternative. His stature could have grown,' Singh said.

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