The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bitten, UPA minds Bihar step

New Delhi, May 25: The United Progressive Alliance has started giving shape to its Bihar strategy.

Sources said that in the discussions held so far, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, coalition chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the main UPA constituents have all agreed that “mistakes of the past” should not be repeated.

They said Singh is veering round to the view that the experience of some of the central ministers should be utilised for ensuring smooth co-ordination among the alliance partners.

Although the names of these ministers have not been finalised, there is a view that agriculture minister Sharad Pawar could be useful in bringing temperamental allies together.

Pawar enjoys a good equation with Rashtriya Janata Dal boss Laloo Prasad Yadav as well as Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan ' the two leaders whose differences came in the way of forming a government in the state though both are colleagues at the Centre.

In addition, Pawar can bank on Tariq Anwar, an old Bihar hand and the general secretary of his Nationalist Congress Party.

One section of the Congress, however, feels that the task of poll management should be left to the party leadership and its ministers. The logic is, if the UPA succeeds, the “fruits of success” should go to Sonia and Singh and not Pawar.

The move to engage Union ministers in poll-related work is not unusual. The National Democratic Alliance, for instance, had availed the services of law minister Arun Jaitley during the Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh in 2003.

Jaitley’s presence had an impact as the warring BJP factions put up a united front. When the results were declared on December 4, the BJP’s tally read 173 against the Congress’s 39.

Some UPA and Left leaders are of the view that Paswan should be told to spell out his stand before the poll campaign gains momentum. In the Congress, too, the dominant view is to persuade Paswan to join the RJD-Congress-Left bandwagon. The Congress is prepared to accommodate Paswan from its quota of seats.

The Congress’s hopes of restoring a “functional relationship” between the RJD and the LJP rest on the premise that events of the last 90 days ' which culminated in the Bihar Assembly being dissolved ' have had a sobering effect on both Laloo Prasad and Paswan.

A cabinet minister, however, said one problem would be to bring them to the negotiating table. The other difficulty they could face, the minister said, is in steering clear of interfering in the internal affairs of another party.

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