With Lalu on bail, Cong-RJD-LJP tie-up seems to be on cards

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New Delhi, Dec 19: With Lalu Prasad out on bail, an alliance appears to be on the cards among Congress, RJD and LJP for the Lok Sabha polls in Bihar.

Bihar Congress chief Ashok Chowdhary today met party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, a day after he held consultations with party chief Sonia Gandhi and briefed both of them about the prevailing political scenario in the state after the break-up of BJP-JD(U) alliance. Chowdhary's meeting with the Congress Vice President at his residence took place for half-an-hour. He had met Sonia Gandhi in Parliament House yesterday.

He was called by both the leaders for a briefing about the situation in the state. An indication of Congress warming up to the RJD chief was available, when the Congress President called to greet him after he got bail in a fooder scam case.

"Congress President Sonia Gandhi had telephoned me after my release from Ranchi jail. She graciously extended greetings to me and expressed happiness over my release," Prasad had told reporters in Patna yesterday.

Prasad, who was the Railway Minister in the UPA-I government and is considered very close to the Congress chief, had fallen out during UPA-II after an acrimony over seat sharing for 2009 Lok Sabha polls, which resulted in break up of the RJD-LJP and Congress alliance. RJD was the second largest constitutent in UPA-I after Congress with 22 seats in Lok Sabha.

There is a feeling in Congress that an alliance with RJD and LJP could repeat the 2004 magic, when the three parties had together walked away with 29 of the 40 seats in the states. Congress had bagged three seats while LJP had got four. When RJD-LJP broke away from Congress in 2009, the results were disastrous for them.

While RJD won four seats, Congress won two and LJP failed to open its account with its chief Ram Vilas Paswan suffering a humiliating defeat in his home turf Hajipur.

Soon after the crushing defeat, both RJD and LJP realised the folly and since then, they have been trying to woo Congress.

Congress feels that an alliance with RJD and LJP could repeat the 2004 magic.

Lalu Prasad's RJD had even offered unconditional support to the UPA-II government from outside. However, there have been signals from Congress in the last one year that it was inching closer to NDA alliance partner JD(U), which eventually broke its 17-year-old alliance with BJP in June this year, opposing the elevation of Narendra Modi.

JD(U) had last year supported the candidature of Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential election going against BJP, which had propped up P A Sangma to contest against Mukherjee.

JD(U) President Sharad Yadav has, however, been making his opposition to an alliance with Congress more than clear and on October 30, this year, both Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had addressed a "convention against communalism," a gathering of non-Congress, non-BJP parties, thereby indicating that it was maintaining equi-distance from both parties.

After the debacle of Congress in recent assembly polls in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, there were indications that Kumar had developed cold feet over aligning with Congress, a scenario which appears to have pushed Congress and RJD closer to each other.

The RJD chief was the first leader to have rooted for Sonia Gandhi as the Prime Minister when the issue of her foreign origin had created a major controversy. Prasad, who had stopped the Ayodhya rath yatra and arrested L K Advani, has been mocking at Kumar's secular credentials and maintaining that it will be his party RJD and not JD(U), which will halt Narendra Modi's march in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Bihar Congress chief Chowdhary said that he had briefed both the Congress President and the Vice President about the political situation in the state. He, however, remained non-committal on whether there is a clear signal from the top leadership of the party to align with RJD.

PTI

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