Angry Congress to go solo in Bihar, can’t help, says Lalu Prasad (Roundup)

March 21st, 2009 - 9:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan New Delhi, March 21 (IANS) The cracks in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) over seat sharing in Bihar widened Saturday, with the Congress deciding to go it alone after being rebuffed by partners Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). The RJD retaliated by saying it could not help it if the Congress was unhappy.
While announcing it was going solo in Bihar, the Congress was at pains to state that the UPA coalition was intact. RJD chief Lalu Prasad too said his party was very much part of the coalition.

The Congress said there was no danger to the coalition and that the UPA partners could come together again after the elections. The party said it had no option but to go to the polls on its own in Bihar after the rebuff by the two allies.

The Congress announcement that it would contest 37 of the 40 seats in Bihar came after RJD leader Lalu Prasad and LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan announced a pre-poll tie-up for Bihar, leaving just three seats for the Congress. The RJD would contest 25 and LJP 12.

Reacting sharply to the Congress decision, Lalu Prasad said he could not give more than three seats to the party. “We will give only three seats to the Congress and there will be no reconsideration on this.”

“We can’t help if the Congress is unhappy with the seat sharing in Bihar. During the last assembly elections, we left 90 seats for Congress, but they won only nine and that too with RJD’s support,” he said.

Lalu Prasad, the railways minister, told reporters: “If the Congress wants to field its candidates they can, but (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi will realise the importance of the RJD after the elections.” He challenged the party to “prove the mettle” of its candidates.

The veteran leader from Bihar, however, stated that his party was in the UPA. “We are part and parcel of the UPA,” he said, and reminded the Congress that it was not “the only party in UPA, we are all there”.

He said it was on the strength of all partners that the UPA government was formed.

Earlier, speaking to reporters, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh said the party was left with “no other option” but to go it alone.

In reply to a question, Singh said there was no question of the UPA disintegrating since the alliance could always be formed after the elections, and hoped that “all secular parties will be united after the polls”.

“Even in 2004, the UPA was formed after the elections.”

The Congress has been smarting ever since the RJD and LJP distributed most of the Bihar seats among themselves earlier in the week. In a retaliatory move, the party did the same thing in neighbouring Jharkhand announcing seats on its own and leaving only two to RJD of the 14 seats in the state.

Senior Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde said: “They (RJD and LJP) took the decision unilaterally to share the seats, leaving just three to us.”

“It was only through the press that we came to know about it,” he added.

“The last time we contested four seats and won three of them. Even that was also refused to us. My workers obviously feel insulted.”

He said the Congress has left three seats for its allies in Bihar, “two from which Laluji is contesting and another seat of Paswanji”.

Asked if it meant the end of the alliance, Shinde said: “This has nothing to do with the UPA government. It is intact. This is the business of the political parties; nothing to do with UPA.”

Lok Sabha polls in Bihar will be held April 16, 23, 30 and May 7.

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