The Congress is likely to agree upon a seat-sharing deal with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Jan Shakti Party for the upcoming Lok Sabha election.

The three parties, which bagged 29 of the 40 seats in Bihar when they contested together in 2004, are keen on forging an alliance as they had only managed to bag six seats between them in 2009 when contesting on their own.

Leaders of the three parties have met a number of times since Mr. Prasad was released from jail in December on parole in one of the six fodder scam cases against him.

While Mr. Prasad has since met both Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Paswan met Ms. Gandhi earlier in January, urging her to take the lead in forming a secular alliance in Bihar.

The three parties are learnt to be in negotiations on arriving at a seat-sharing formula. Following a meeting between Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh and Mr. Paswan here on Sunday evening, political circles have been buzzing about the likely alliance with the three parties announcing their alliance very soon.

However, Congress spokesperson Mukul Wasnik on Monday refused to comment on the “speculation”. He said the party had a mechanism in place to cobble up alliances and senior leader A.K. Antony was in-charge of the Alliance Committee. “As and when some decision is taken, it would be communicated to the media.”

That Congress was no longer averse to the idea of allying with Mr. Yadav, who had been convicted in a graft case, was made evidently clear by Mr. Singh, when in a television interview he defended his party’s hobnobbing with the RJD thus: “One leader has been convicted and not the entire party. Lalu will not be contesting the elections. The entire party has not been held guilty. It is not Lalu but Rabri Devi who is leading the RJD today.”

Mr. Singh also recalled the long ties that Mr. Yadav shared with the Congress and how he had stood staunchly behind Ms. Gandhi when she was attacked on her foreign origin. “We are making every effort to ensure that we have a tie-up with Lalu and Paswan soon,” he said.

Though the Congress has made it a policy not to comment on the outcome of opinion polls, party sources said it has not lost sight of the findings of these surveys which are all indicating that while the three parties again face the prospect of a rout if they contest separately, they would do really well – and almost get as much support as the Narendra Modi led BJP -- should they join forces.

This has also made the Congress have a re-think on its strategy of not allying in some key States in order to build the party there from the lowest level.

With the return of former Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa – who was indicted by Karnataka Lokayukta for illegally profiteering in land deals -- into BJP, the Congress leaders believe they can now ally with ease with Mr. Yadav without having to bother too much about the BJP propaganda on probity in public life.

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