The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fresh crack at Bihar govt

New Delhi, April 16: Fresh efforts are being made to prop up a United Progressive Alliance regime in Bihar within a month, comprising the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Lok Janshakti Party and headed by a member outside Laloo Prasad Yadav's family.

UPA sources said a formula was being worked out that would at once be a face-saver for LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan ' he has steadfastly opposed truck with the RJD ' and facilitate the installation of a government.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who had brought the warring Bihar leaders together on the eve of last year's Lok Sabha polls, is keen that the two Union ministers team up in Bihar.

The initiative is being taken in the wake of Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar ruling out the possibility of his party snapping ties with the BJP. The sources said the only option left now was for the RJD and LJP to join hands.

Legislators from all parties were also growing restive because they were not getting salary and allowances, the sources said. There were fears that snap polls might be held.

Some senior central ministers favoured elections, but the Prime Minister was against it, the sources said. If elections were held now, the RJD could be the gainer and the LJP the biggest loser.

Contrary to the impression that 17 of the 29 upper caste LJP legislators were anti-Laloo Prasad, as many as 12 were pressing Paswan to join hands with him, the sources added.

LJP MLAs Ajay Kumar Bulganin and Poonam Devi suggested as much in Hajipur yesterday. Others too are believed to be in touch with him. But the LJP hurriedly convened a news conference today and denied any cracks in the party.

Sources said even as the Congress, Left and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar were urging Paswan to bury the hatchet with Laloo Prasad, there were suggestions that he could help by opting out of the numbers game.

Strategists working on the formula said the strength of parties backing an RJD-led government was now 111 ' RJD 75 + Cong 10 + NCP 3 + BSP 2 + CPM 1 + CPI 3 + Independents 17.

If the 29-member LJP abstained from voting, the strength of the House would be reduced to 214. The UPA would then need only 107 members to form a government.

The four-member Samajwadi Party and the seven-member CPI (ML), which would never back an NDA government, could also similarly abstain. Once the LJP decided to play ball, these two parties would be of no consequence.

If the LJP, Samajwadi Party and CPI(ML) ' a block of 40 ' abstained, only 102 members would be required to form a government. The UPA alone, barring the LJP, has 94 members and the RJD would need only six of the 17 Independents to put a government in place.

In Patna yesterday, Laloo Prasad said a government led by Rabri Devi would be in place within a month-and-a-half. 'With Sankranti festival over, we have begun efforts to form a government led by Rabri Devi. I am confident our government will be formed in 45 days,' he said.

'We neither favour a prolonged stint of President's rule nor do we want our poor state to shoulder the burden of a snap poll. So we have initiated efforts to form a secular government,' he said.

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