The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paswan fends off poachers, sets terms

New Delhi, March 31: Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan today dissolved the Bihar unit of his party and told the Janata Dal (U) it would not only have to sever ties with the BJP but also accept a Muslim chief minister if it wanted to join hands with him.

Paswan is believed to have dissolved his party unit fearing that the BJP and Dal (United) might poach on it to form an NDA government in Bihar, which is under President's rule after the Assembly elections threw up a fractured mandate.

While LJP general secretary S.N. Singh announced the decision in Delhi, Paswan, in Ranchi, denied the claim that the Bihar unit had been dissolved for fear of poachers. 'The decision to dissolve the party's Bihar unit was taken to allow all members of the party to place their views fearlessly at the three-day review meeting in connection with the poll result and future strategy,' he said.

The LJP has 29 MLAs. Seventeen of them are from upper castes and stridently against the RJD. Though the anti-defection law does not approve of any split, it has a loophole ' two-thirds of a legislature party can merge with another party. So, 20 MLAs of the LJP, if they so decide, can merge with the Dal (U) or the BJP. But after the dissolution of the Bihar unit, all powers rest with Paswan. Narender Singh, who was so far the state unit chief, cannot take any decision.

The LJP leader said the Dal (U), if it is keen to do business with his party, will have to quit the NDA camp and agree on a chief minister from the minority community.

'It is not only the LJP which has to take a decision on joining the government. We have the CPI-ML, CPI, SP and the NCP with us and all have categorically said they cannot join any government which has the BJP in it. We cannot ignore them,' Paswan said.

The Dal (U), on the other hand, is struggling to prove its seriousness about government formation.

At the end of its three-day 'introspection camp' at Rajgir, party president George Fernandes authorised senior leader Nitish Kumar to hold necessary talks on the formation of a 'good' non-RJD government.

But one outcome has been the Dal (U)'s decision not to break its ties with the BJP.

'Communalism and the role of outfits like the RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal are not an issue in Bihar as in other states. The JD (U), BJP and the LJP have all received a mandate against the RJD. It is their duty to give a non-RJD government to the people. The LJP's anti-BJP stance is, therefore, not in order,' party leader Jagannath Mishra had said during the party meet.

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