Seeking to position his party in neutral gear on the alliance issue in Bihar ahead of Lok Sabha polls, LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan on Sunday said it was for the Congress to decide whether the secular alliance in the state will include Lalu Prasad’s RJD or Nitish Kumar’s JD(U).
Sources in LJP have said the party has opened its channel of communications with JD(U), which is also keen on a tie-up with Mr. Paswan’s party.
Mr. Nitish Kumar walked out of NDA in June last year bringing to an end his party’s 17 year-old ties with the BJP in protest against Narendra Modi’s elevation.
“Our alliance with Congress is decided as far as we are concerned. Both parties will remain together.As far aligning with JD(U) or RJD is concerned, the LJP has left this decision to Congress.This much is clear for us that we will go with Congress.
“If Congress goes with JD(U), then it will be a Congress-JDU-LJP alliance, if Congress goes with RJD, it will be a Congress-RJD-LJP alliance for Bihar. Whichever of the two party joins the Congress-LJP grouping, it will have strength to stop the march of the BJP in Bihar,” he told PTI in an interview.
This is the first time that Mr. Paswan has spoken categorically on the issue of alliance in Bihar amid indications that LJP and JD(U) were warming up to each other.
Two Rajya Sabha MPs from JD(U) Ali Anwar Ansari and Sabir Ali were seen at Mr. Paswan’s house during a lunch programme this week. Mr. Paswan also attended an event with JD(U) MP K.C. Tyagi on Saturday giving a call for socialist forces to come together.
Both Mr. Prasad and Mr. Paswan have met Congress president Sonia Gandhi over the alliance issue but there was no categorical answer from Ms. Gandhi about what would be the alliance arrangement in Bihar this time.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Congress had walked out of RJD-LJP alliance in a huff after it was offered only three seats to contest by Mr. Prasad.
Congress, which had initially been demanding 10 to 15 seats had finally scaled down its demand to five seats but it was rejected by the RJD chief, who recently rued his then decision, saying it was a “mistake” on his part.
Mr. Paswan, whose party LJP had fought the last Lok Sabha election in alliance with RJD and drew a blank in the 12 seats it contested, made it clear that while he is keen on aligning with Congress, he won’t mind deserting Prasad’s party if Congress chose to go with JD(U).
Asked if there was a difference of opinion in LJP over the issue of alliance, the LJP chief said, “Yes, in our party also there are two opinions. While some say that we should have a tie-up with JD(U), the others believe that our alliance with RJD should continue.”
“It is not that any particular view is predominant. There are both views in the party. That is why I have placed all these things before Congress. The role of Congress and LJP will be key in Bihar.
“They will be a strong force irrespective of whether the two parties align with RJD or JDU,” he said.
In Congress, two views on the issue already exist.
While a section believes that Congress and RJD with LJP is a natural alliance and will be a good combination against the challenge posed by Narendra Modi’s BJP, some leaders close to Rahul Gandhi feel that aligning with “convicted” Mr. Lalu Prasad will damage party’s effort to bring the anti-corruption image the party is seeking to build.
Mr. Prasad met Mr. Rahul this month, who had said that he will go by the party’s decision on the issue.
Some Congress leaders have a soft corner for Mr. Prasad, who was the first political leader to strongly back the Congress President on her foreign origin controversy in the run-up to 2004 Lok Sabha elections and earlier.
There is a view in the LJP as well that Congress may find it difficult to go with Mr. Prasad’s party after the emergence of Aam Aadmi Party as a political force insisting on clean politics and attacking both BJP and Congress on corruption issue.