RJD to fight on Congress seats too in Bihar (Roundup)

March 22nd, 2009 - 9:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan New Delhi, March 22 (IANS) The rift in India’s ruling coalition widened Sunday with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) deciding to contest even in the three Lok Sabha seats the Congress won five years ago in Bihar.
Hardening his stand against the Congress, RJD chief and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said here that his party would field 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 told reporters, and challenged the Congress to win the three seats.

With Sunday’s development, it is clear that the Congress will have no allies in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which together account for 120 valuable seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha. The Congress and the Samajwadi Party have had an ugly fallout over seat sharing in Uttar Pradesh.

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

Feeling insulted, the Congress had retaliated by announcing it would put up candidates in 37 seats in Bihar and go for a unilateral tie-up with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in neighbouring Jharkhand.

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

Even as the Janata Dal-United gloated over the development, Congress general secretary M. Veerappa Moily said his party would still not put up candidates in the three Bihar seats where Lalu Prasad (two) and Paswan will contest.

Political scientist A.K. Verma said the RJD and LJP were trying to improve their numbers in the multi-party UPA post the April-May Lok Sabha battle.

Verma told IANS on telephone from Kanpur: “There is no animosity with the Congress per se. The UPA constituents understand that (they) number … for better bargaining power.”

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 backer 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 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 in 2004. He said the Congress rejected this.

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 UPA was not their fiefdom.

Lalu Prasad also insisted that no single party would be able to form a government on its own after the election, be it “the Congress or Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)”.

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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