On a day of fast-paced developments, Bihar grabbed national attention on Monday with key player Lalu Prasad staring at a split in his party and partner Ram Vilas Paswan inching closer to ditching him and the Congress for the BJP, leaving political equations in the poll-vital state in a flux.
Prasad, who is keen on a pre-poll alliance with the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, suffered a big blow when reports claimed in the evening that 13 of his 22 Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MLAs planned to switch sides to the ruling Janata Dal (United) in the state that send 40 members to the Lok Sabha.
Later, senior RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui paraded six of the 13 MLAs in front of the media to show they were still with the party. The six MLAs claimed their signatures were forged in the letter that the rebel legislators sent to the speaker, demanding they be recognised as a separate group. Later in the night, three more MLAs returned to the party.
But, rebel RJD legislator Samrat Chaudhary said it was just the beginning, “more party MLAs will join us”. The developments will weaken Prasad’s bargaining power when and if he sits down to work out a seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress and Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
Read: Nitish too 'busy' to know of strife in RJD
Adding to Prasad’s problem, Paswan seems to have softened stand on the “communal politics” of BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi, putting a question mark on the future of the planned “secular alliance” of the three parties.
A formal announcement on a poll tie-up with the BJP would be made in the next few days, LJP sources said.
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar feigned ignorance over the developments in RJD. (AFP file photo)
Paswan was himself unavailable for comments, but his son Chirag downplayed allegations of Modi’s involvement in riots, saying “the BJP prime ministerial candidate had got a clean chit from the court”. A decision on alliance would be taken in the next few days, he said.
An alarmed Prasad urged Paswan not to join “communal forces”. “He (Paswan) is a nice and a decent man. I don’t know who is misleading him,” he said. “I want to appeal to him through you that he should not join the communal forces, which will destroy the country,” Prasad told media after he failed to get in touch the LJP leader.
Paswan is said to be upset with the RJD playing “big brother” in deciding the seat distribution. The Congress is believed to have staked claims to the seats that the LJP wants to contest, upsetting Paswan further.
“An alliance with the BJP is preferable for the winnability prospects that it brings to the LJP candidates,” a senior LJP leader said.
Read: Rebellion fresh blow to Lalu’s comeback hope
Read: Lalu: from saviour of minorities to battered and lonely
Significantly, a section of the Bihar BJP is opposing Paswan’s possible entry into the National Democratic Alliance. Some of them had rushed to Delhi to block such a move, sources said.
After Monday’s developments, the Congress might be forced to re-consider its alliance plan, observers said.
It might prefer Nitish Kumar’s JD( U) as an alliance par tner over Yadav, who has been convicted in a fodder scam case and can’t contest the Lok Sabha elections, observers said.
The rebellion came as shock for Lalu Prasad who has been on the verge of a comeback in after his release from jail. (PTI file photo)
More about Bihar politics:
Rajnath denies reports of BJP-LJP alliance
LJP leaders give mixed signals on alliance with BJP
Unhappy over talks with UPA, Paswan's party set to tie up with BJP