RJD to contest in Congress seats in Bihar too (Lead)

March 22nd, 2009 - 5:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan New Delhi, March 22 (IANS) The rift in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) widened further Sunday with a miffed Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) deciding to contest even in the three Lok Sabha seats held by the Congress in Bihar.
Hardening his stand against the Congress, RJD chief and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad told reporters here that his party would put up candidates in Aurangabad, Sasaram and Madhubani with the backing of Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).

“Now we have decided to field candidates from Aurangabad, Sasaram and Madhubani, the sitting seats of Congress,” Lalu Prasad said, making fun of the Congress party machinery in Bihar.

The RJD and LJP had originally carved out 37 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats of Bihar among themselves, leaving only Aurangabad, Sasaram and Madhubani for the Congress.

A furious Congress had retaliated by announcing it would field candidates in 37 seats in Bihar and go for a tie-up with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in Jharkhand.

On Sunday, Lalu Prasad said the RJD and LJP would also contest the elections jointly in Jharkhand.

Sounding somewhat conciliatory, Congress general secretary M. Veerappa Moily said his party had no intention of putting up candidates in the three seats of Bihar where Lalu Prasad (two) and Paswan are contesting.

Addressing his last press conference here before leaving for Bihar and Jharkhand to plunge into the election campaign, Lalu Prasad took pot-shots at the Congress, of which he was the most vocal supporter until recently.

He blamed the Congress for the failure to reach a seat sharing arrangement in Bihar.

He felt it was foolish on the part of the Congress to claim that its decision to fight in 37 seats in Bihar was because it wanted to strengthen its organisation. “Let them try their luck,” he said.

He challenged the Congress to retain the three Bihar constituencies it won in 2004.

He said the RJD and LJP had at one point agreed to offer four Lok Sabha seats to the Congress in Bihar — the same number it contested five years ago. This, he said, was rejected by the Congress.

While stating that he had high regards for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the RJD chief reminded the Congress that the ruling coalition was not a Congress fiefdom but an alliance of several parties.

Lalu Prasad also insisted that no single party would be able to form a government on its own after the April-May Lok Sabha battle. “No political party, either the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has the capability,” he said.

But he asserted that he was “part and parcel of UPA” and that UPA alone would form the next government led again by Manmohan Singh.

Lalu Prasad said he would never shake hands with the Third Front. “There would be no alliance with the Third Front. Our preference is UPA and this would remain so.”

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