OTHERS

With Paswan behind, rebels serve notice on Rabri

NEW DELHI, APRIL 29. Levelling charges of corruption and nepotism against the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav, the breakaway group of the RJD today claimed that the days of Rabri Devi regime in Bihar were numbered. Promptly reacting to the new situation, the Lok Jan Shakti of the Union Communications Minister, Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, extended support to the rebel RJD leader, Dr. Ranjan Yadav, in the breakaway group's bid to topple the Rabri Devi ministry in Bihar.

Mr. Paswan's party is a constituent of the NDA and his ready endorsement of Dr. Ranjan Yadav's walking out of the RJD is likely to send signals in Bihar that could hot up things for Mr. Laloo Yadav. ``The Laloo-Rabri regime in Bihar is running on bonus. The violence-ridden five rounds of panchayat polls have shown that it is jungle raj in Bihar,'' he told reporters here.

The breakaway faction of the RJD also received a shot in the arm as a report from Patna indicated that senior Samata Party leader and Union Agriculture Minister, Mr. Nitish Kumar, invited the rebel RJD MPs to join the NDA if they so desired.

Mr. Nitish Kumar said that Dr. Ranjan Yadav, working president of the RJD, and his supporters ``deserved kudos for severing their ties with Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav who believed in dictatorship rather than democracy.'' Holding Mr. Laloo Yadav ``fully responsible'' for yesterday's split in the RJD, the breakaway faction RJD (Democratic) spokesperson, Mr. Anwarul Haq, MP, said their group would try and mobilise ``anti-Laloo forces'' for offering an alternative government in Bihar.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr. Haq claimed that the National Democratic Alliance had extended ``unconditional support'' to their group. The RJD has 17 MPs, including 10 in the Rajya Sabha, and the breakaway faction said that the split in the Upper House too would be finalised ``in a day or two'' as six members were expected to join their ranks, headed by Dr. Ranjan Yadav. The Rajya Sabha members of the rebel group, Ms. Kumkum Rai and Bhante Dhamma Viriyo, were also present at the press conference.

Claiming that 60 out of 115 RJD MLAs did not attend the party's national executive in Patna yesterday, the rebel leaders said that nearly 11 presidents of the State units had also not attended the meeting to express solidarity with Dr. Ranjan Yadav.

Asked why they were waiting for so long to come out in the open against what they called was ``Laloo's misrule'', Mr. Haq said that they had been alerting the Laloo-Rabri regime against scams, corruption and strong-arm tactics over the last two years. ``But Mr. Laloo Yadav has turned Bihar into his personal fiefdom and is treating the State as his family's property and a private limited company.''

Mr. Haq claimed that it was only a matter of time before MLAs started picking up courage to rebel against the Laloo-Rabri regime. ``The MLAs are terrified because of Mr. Yadav's vengefulness. He is capable of unleashing terror on his party MLAs if they go against him.''

Mr. Haq said that the breakaway group would visit Patna by May 4 or 5. Though not keen on joining the NDA, he said the ruling combine had vowed ``unconditional support'' to the group. Other MPs of the RJD (Democratic) alleged that over the past decade Mr. Laloo Yadav had treated with disdain the crucial areas of education, health, welfare of minorities and development.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr. Paswan said that it was for the rebel RJD MPs to decide their future course of action. Asked if he would encourage the breakaway RJD faction to join his party, Mr. Paswan retorted: ``Why should they join our party. They have their own agenda. We will support them if they attempt to offer an alternative government.''

Mr. Paswan also announced his party's plans to contest the May 10 Assembly elections in five States. The Lok Jan Shakti would contest 11 seats in West Bengal as a NDA partner. In Tamil Nadu, it will put up 15 candidates and field 11 candidates in Assam. In Kerala and Pondicherry, the party will contest nine and seven seats respectively.

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