Buoyed by the good performance of his party in the recent by-elections in Bihar, Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) leader Ram Vilas Paswan on Friday said that in Maharashtra, the newly constituted Republican Left Democratic Front (RLDF) was a real alternative to the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies.

Initially the LJP opted out of the Front after it was allotted one seat. The party is back in it again after a promise of six seats in the Maharashtra Assembly election, which is scheduled for October 13.

The RLDF went through a minor upheaval earlier this week. One of the constituents of the old Republican Party of India-faction, led by Rajendra Gavai, objected to what he called the hasty inclusion of the LJP after it threatened to quit peeved at the allocation of just one seat. Mr. Gavai also went public with his grievances about RPI (United) leader Ramdas Athavale’s functioning.

However, the 17 parties in the Front have been straining every nerve since Thursday to iron out the differences, and on Friday, Mr. Paswan told journalists that his party was very much part of the Front.

Mr. Paswan said the LJP and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, led by Lalu Prasad, did well in the Bihar by-elections despite the odds: the RJD also secured Okhla (Delhi), where the infamous Batla house shootout took place. At last, Mr. Paswan said, there was an alternative for the people of Maharashtra, in the form of the RLDF.

More important than the number of seats it was contesting was the fact that the RLDF spoke the language of the poor and was offering the minorities, Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes a serious option, he said.

Earlier, Muslims voted for the Congress as they had no option. There was resentment against that party and its ally for the way the Srikrishna Commission report on the Mumbai riots of 1992- 93 was shelved.

The Dalit and Muslim votes would be polarised this time. The LJP has had a presence in Maharashtra since 1983, when it was started as the Dalit Sena and contested 37 seats in corporation elections in Vidarbha and Marathwada and won six.