Officially, the Congress put on a brave face as news came in of the Lok Jan Shakti Party’s desire to join the NDA. Unofficially, Congress sources said that while it was true that they were “on edge,” they also felt that the LJP was “posturing.”

Joining a Vajpayee-led government (as the LJP had done) was “vastly different” from being part of a Modi-led one,” these sources said. Indeed, Union MoS for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari recalled that LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan had chosen to walk out of the Vajpayee government over the Gujarat riots and that he would find it hard to take a U-turn on that position “considering that issues arising out of the incidents of 2002 continue to remain unaddressed, especially the question of justice for the victims.”

But Mr. Paswan’s son, Chirag, chairman of the LJP parliamentary board, asked to respond to talk of the party joining the NDA, said: “Our parliamentary board will meet in a day or two and decide on the alliance. We have not yet decided on it.”

To a question on the 2002 riots, he said: “After the Supreme Court’s clean chit to Modi that no longer remains an issue.”

RJD chief Lalu Prasad, on his part, tried to reach out to Mr. Paswan through the media, appealing to him not to join hands with “communal forces,” stressing that the seat-sharing talks were still on.

KCR meets Digvijaya

Meanwhile, a Telangana Rashtra Samiti delegation led by K.C. Rao on Monday held detailed discussions on the merger/alliance issue with Congress general secretary in-charge of Andhra Pradesh Digvijaya Singh in Delhi but the talks were inconclusive.

For the moment, the Congress leadership is keeping the TRS guessing on whether it wants a merger or an alliance as it has not proposed any concrete formula yet.

A senior TRS leader who participated in the talks told The Hindu that Mr. Singh was trying to elicit their (TRS leaders’) views on whether the southern party is keener on a merger or alliance.

Modalities not specified

“He did not specify any modalities either on merger or electoral alliance. On our part, we were very clear,” the TRS leader said, adding, “We asked Mr. Singh what will be the role for Mr. Chandrasekhar Rao and other leaders and the plan for amalgamation of party cadre in case of merger and what will be the political share in case of alliance?”

Clearly, both leaders and cadre of the TRS expect some political rewards after 13 years of struggle to achieve Statehood for Telangana. If the Congress insisted, the TRS, its leaders said, were ready for a merger, but they also stressed that it would be less productive for them, and they preferred an electoral alliance.

The TRS will be in a position to react and negotiate only after a proposal is put forward by the Congress leadership, TRS sources said, adding that Mr Digvijay Singh had told them that the views expressed by them would be discussed on the Congress Core Committee before any concrete formula is presented to them.