After Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad made it clear that he cannot offer the Congress more than 11 of Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats, the party is now exploring a tie-up with the Janata Dal (United).

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar apparently responded to the overtures, saying the UPA government and the Congress should make their stand clear on his plea for a special status to Bihar within 24 hours.

But Congress sources admit that an alliance with the JD(U) may not be easy, given the differences between the two parties on this issue. The rejection of the special status demand was seen as the Congress’ lack of interest in ties with the JD(U).

The volatility in Bihar politics, triggered by the crossing over of Lok Jan Shakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan to the BJP camp, continued as Mr. Prasad gave the Congress a “take it or leave it” offer of 11 seats, and demanded to know its response before noon on Sunday.

However, RJD leaders, later in the evening, increased the offer to 12 for the Congress and one for the NCP.

In the Congress camp, PCC spokesperson Prem Chandra Mishra denied that talks had broken down. The Central leadership would take a decision, he added.

Mr. Prasad was said to have gone back on his promise of sparing the Madhubani seat for Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmad as the RJD chief wants to offer it to RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui. Mr. Siddiqui lost the fight in 2009 to the BJP’s Hukumdeo Narain Yadav, while Mr. Ahmad was relegated to the third position.

The Congress is insisting on Motihari and Bhagalpur as well, which demand d has not found favour with Mr. Prasad.

As for the NCP, it may settle for just the Katihar seat, being offered to Union Minister of State Tariq Anwar, though it sought two seats. Unless either the Congress or the RJD climbs down, the negotiations might fail as it happened in 2009, resulting in the the Congress going it alone in the State. While it won just a couple of seats, the RJD-LJP alliance fared no better with the RJD bagging only four seats.