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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

Cong, RJD's growing bonhomie hints at pact

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi & Srinand Jha, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, January 09, 2014
First Published: 22:00 IST(9/1/2014) | Last Updated: 01:48 IST(10/1/2014)

The Congress and the RJD inched closer to an electoral understanding in Bihar after Lalu Prasad met Rahul Gandhi on Thursday.

While a final decision on the possible alliance for the state’s 40 Lok Sabha seats is awaited, the Congress has sought more time to evaluate the proposal.

Prasad will meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi again in the coming days to work out the seat-sharing details.

Though the RJD chief is keen to put up a secular front to counter the rise of BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi is circumspect about the possible fallout of the tie-up, given Prasad’s conviction in the fodder scam. A decision is expected after the day-long All India Congress Committee session on January 17.

The Bihar Congress is divided on the alliance issue.

Read: Lalu Prasad meets Rahul, triggers fresh speculation of alliance with Cong

While the majority wants a tie-up with the RJD and Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP, a section favour an alliance with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and the young leaders are pushing for the existing go-it-alone strategy.

A feedback report by Congress observers, however, suggested there was crystallization of the RJD’s support base and a surge in Prasad’s popularity after his conviction. They also felt an alliance between the RJD, Congress and the LJP would be a formidable one that could repeat or even better its 2004 performance, when it won 32 of the 40 seats in Bihar.

But at the same time, the possible emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party at the national level is also weighing on the minds of the Congress central leaders. Electoral gains in Bihar could be offset by losses in other parts of the country, they feel.

On his part, Prasad expressed regret for the breakdown of the alliance in 2009 and assured the Congress leadership that he would not repeat the mistake.


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