May 22: As the ranks of the breakaway Lok Janshakti Party MLAs appeared to swell tonight, the Centre was considering dissolution of the Bihar Assembly to prevent the installation of an NDA government or a repeat of the Jharkhand “fiasco”.
Last-minute attempts within the United Progressive Alliance to try and save the situation had made little headway with the Rashtriya Janata Dal firmly against Ram Vilas Paswan’s plan of a “secular” government headed by someone other than Rabri Devi.
Paswan softened his stand to say he would have “no objection” to an RJD chief minister leading a UPA government. Only, it has to be a Muslim and not Rabri. But Laloo Prasad would not agree.
The Prime Minister met senior colleagues at his residence late tonight to discuss the subject. Sources said he might call off his visit to Rajasthan tomorrow, if necessary.
Earlier, before the UPA formally assembled for the anniversary meeting, its chairperson Sonia Gandhi called on Manmohan Singh along with senior Congress ministers Pranab Mukherjee, Arjun Singh, K. Natwar Singh and Shivraj Patil. They are believed to have discussed Bihar.
The only solace for Paswan today was that he managed to “parade” 10 of his 29 MLAs before the media and claimed the support of four more who are serving jail sentences in Bihar.
That still leaves 15 of his MLAs in favour of an NDA government headed by Nitish Kumar.
The NDA maintained it had the backing of two of the four jailed legislators. If true, the LJP rebels would need three more to raise their strength to 20 and get around the anti-defection law.
The breakaway LJP legislators in Jharkhand, who were shifted from their hideout near Jamshedpur to another in Ghatshila, have been joined by another group of rebel MLAs led by Munna Shukla.
Amid fears that the longer RJD leader Laloo Prasad Yadav and Paswan take to patch up the easier it would be for the NDA to wean away more LJP legislators, government sources indicated that dissolution of the Assembly and calling fresh polls was the most “viable” option.
Both Laloo Prasad and the CPM are pitching for it. Paswan, who had earlier opposed the move, has little or no leverage now.
Bihar governor Buta Singh chipped in with a request to home minister Patil to divert some of the security forces, on stand-by for combating Naxalites, to tackle “law and order”.
Patil sought a report on why Buta Singh had made the request. The report was expected tonight or tomorrow and could be an input for recommending dissolution.
Sources said the reason for the request was the fear that the NDA may take to the streets if the Assembly is dissolved or try “strong-arm” tactics to spirit away Paswan’s legislators.
Security has already been stepped up in Bihar. Chief secretary K.A.H. Subramanian said several contingents of the paramilitary forces were being moved to the state.
At least four battalions were being moved from Jamshedpur to Bihar while more than two dozen companies of the Central Reserve Police Force were being deployed.