He hopes Sonia will mobilise secular forces to keep communal elements at bay

Speculation apart on its dalliance with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the Congress has invited all its old allies to the last annual huddle ahead of the 2014 general elections.

Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s political adviser Ahmed Patel have invited all old allies, including those who have extended outside support to the Congress-led UPA II government, to the May 22 annual gathering.

Lok Jan Shakti Party president Ram Vilas Paswan has confirmed his participation. Last year too he and his alliance partner, RJD chief Lalu Prasad, attended the morale boosting assembly of allies.

Mr. Paswan hoped that Ms. Gandhi would display the same leadership as she did in 2004 in launching the UPA by walking down to his residence.

Both the RJD and the LJP forged a separate alliance in 2009 after having failed to reach a seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress. Things were no different in the Assembly elections.

This time too the Congress has maintained that it would have no truck, in the Lok Sabha elections, with either Mr. Prasad or Mr. Kumar — his Janata Dal (United) still in the National Democratic DA — who has made public his discomfiture with the repeated projection of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as a possible prime ministerial candidate of the BJP.

Mr. Paswan, however, ruled out the possibility of Mr. Kumar walking out of the NDA even if Mr. Modi were to become Prime Minister and contesting the elections on his own as that would impact his vote bank. Even joining hands with the Congress would not serve the purpose of social engineering.

Mr. Paswan told reporters that he and Mr. Prasad favoured an alliance with the Congress but that depended on whether the party wanted it or not. He hoped Ms. Gandhi would rise to the occasion and mobilise secular forces to keep the communal elements at bay.

Show of strength

Mr. Prasad held a Parivartan rally in Patna, while Mr. Paswan, who took out a padayatra, is also scheduled to have a show of strength on the LPJ foundation day on November 28.

For his part, Mr. Kumar has announced a padayatra in Bihar to test the waters once again. He abandoned his Adhikar Yatra midway through as his public meetings were marred by protests on various issues.

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