The Telegraph
Friday , January 17 , 2014
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Fresh pitch for Lalu pact

Patna, Jan. 16: An overwhelming majority of Congress members from Bihar are set to make a strong pitch for an alliance with the RJD and LJP at the special session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in New Delhi tomorrow.

“We have on several occasions in the past apprised the party high command to strike an electoral tie-up with Lalu Prasad’s RJD, which is still in an alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP. We will repeat our stand again if we are asked to do so,” said a senior AICC member on way to attend the special session that will be chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Most of the 74 AICC members from Bihar have left for New Delhi for the crucial session ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Lalu Prasad, who was busy feeding dahi-chura (curd and beaten rice) to the poor for the second consecutive day today — on account of Makar Sankranti — at his 10 Circular Road residence, said he was in favour of an alliance. “Congressmen, from Patna to Delhi, who are aware of the ground reality are for a Congress-RJD-LJP alliance. I have time and again stated that an alliance has to materialise to take on the communal forces in the state,” said the RJD chief, who has over the past few weeks met with both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, ostensibly to press for a pact.

Asked about the seats to be shared between the allies, Lalu said: “I will agree to what the Congress president (Sonia) decides. It is not the time to bargain for seats. It is time for secular forces to unite and take the communal forces head on. After enjoying power with the BJP for 17 long years, Nitish Kumar has lost the credibility to carry on the battle against his former and long-standing friends.”

Several AICC members on way to New Delhi described talks of a JD(U)-LJP alliance as chief minister Nitish Kumar’s “strategy” to sabotage a deal with the Congress. The Congress-RJD-LJP triumvirate had swept the Lok Sabha polls in 2004, but the UPA suffered heavily when the formidable alliance broke in 2009.

“Nitish knows his party would be obliterated in the event of a Congress-RJD-LJP alliance taking shape. He has offered Paswan’s brother, Pashupati Nath Paras, a ministerial berth in his government and Lok Sabha seats to the two LJP heavyweights, Rama Singh and Surajbhan,” an AICC source said under cover of anonymity.

Sources said Paswan was “under pressure” from a section of his party to accept the JD(U) “offer”. Some senior JD(U) strategists in New Delhi were still said to be working “overtime” to get the LJP into Nitish’s fold.

But the majority of AICC members The Telegraph spoke to emphasised that it would be detrimental to the party’s interest not to ally with Lalu, who has his cadres galvanised after being freed from jail on bail and commands the unflinching loyalty of the Yadavs — the single largest caste in Bihar.

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