Congress, RJD try to sew tear in UPA (Political Roundup, Lead)

April 22nd, 2009 - 10:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, April 22 (IANS) Was it settling down to the business of electioneering a day before round two of Election 2009? On Wednesday, that seemed to be so as quietude returned to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) with the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) ironing out their differences and the political discourse shorn of major acrimony.
As 140 constituencies in 12 states readied for the second round of the five-phase elections, key leaders camped in their constituencies and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said confidently that its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would win the election.

But that was par for the course.

It was in the UPA that some thinking seemed to have been done to mend the tear of the day earlier, when RJD chief Lalu Prasad bypassed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and said the prime ministerial candidate of the grouping would be decided only after the elections.

Congress leader and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who had taken umbrage and reportedly said in that case there would be a question mark on whether Lalu Prasad would be in the UPA government after the polls, blamed the unpleasantness on his (Mukherjee’s) rusty Hindi.

What he had wanted to say in Bihar’s Samastipur Monday was that Lalu Prasad’s party and the Congress had a pre-poll understanding in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the minister said at a press conference in Kolkata.

“He was our pre-poll ally. So, he was naturally part of the government. But since this time there has been no pre-poll understanding, he has to extend support after the election to be a part of the government,” Mukherjee told reporters here.

“But I said all this in my broken Hindi. Perhaps this is causing confusion.”

Injecting a note of humour, Mukherjee said Lalu Prasad had called him Monday night. “I then told him everything. He told me henceforth I should speak only in English.”

Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan, who said in his Bihar constituency Hajipur that he would have to rethink his relationship with the Congress if Lalu Prasad was not part of the UPA, came in for fulsome praise along with his RJD colleague.

“They (Steel Minister Paswan and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad) were both part of our government. We appreciate their contribution in running their departments, particularly the way Laluji ran the railways.”

He also refused to join issue with Paswan, saying in a vibrant democracy like India every political leader was free to make his own observations and take political decisions.

“In election time such political discourse does take place. We have not let down our allies. We have treated them with dignity,” added his deputy in the ministry, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma.

The LJP and RJD have tied up for an alliance in Bihar, leaving the Congress to go it alone in the 40 Lok Sabha seats.

At the other end of the political spectrum, the BJP, whose prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani was campaigning in Madhya Pradesh, was buoyed by its controversial leader Varun Gandhi finally filing his nomination papers from Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh.

While his cousin Priyanka campaigned for her brother and Congress general secretary Rahul in close-by Amethi, which goes to the polls Thursday, Varun Gandhi kept the temperatures high.

“I was kept with inmates suffering from TB in Pilibhit jail. I was also not provided a mat despite repeated requests. It was very kind of other inmates who collected their ‘kambals’ (blankets) and prepared a nice cushion for me to sleep,” Varun Gandhi, who was in jail for nearly 20 days for his communally inflammatory remarks, told a rally.

“I have never killed a mosquito in my entire life, except during my stay in jail… I want to end all sorts of divide in all communities,” said the ‘other Gandhi’ scion, who is out on parole for two weeks after giving a pledge that he will not make any provocative statements that will disturb communal harmony.

The BJP exuded confidence.

“Just like positive trends in the first phase of polling, even in the second phase the BJP would improve its performance,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told IANS.

May 16, when all the votes will get counted, will test that confidence.

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