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Congress is done with Lalu, says Pranab

india Updated: Apr 22, 2009 01:59 IST
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Campaigning for the second phase of Lok Sabha elections ended with the war of words between Congress and its ally in union government RJD turning bitter. Congress and RJD are fighting each other in Bihar that has 13 seats voting in the second phase.

Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee, 73, told a rally in Samastipur that RJD chief Lalu Prasad 60, had “lost the respect of the Congress”, and blamed him for using the party as a “doormat.” “…. he’ll find it difficult to even get a berth in the new Government due to his behaviour. ” Mukherjee said. “When the NDA government was all set to dismiss the RJD government in Bihar in 1998, it was the Congress that did not allow it to happen,” he said.

The statement prompted a quick retort from Lalu. “Who’ll form government without us? Time will tell who will form the government...and who will leave. Let elections be over first,” he said. “UPA is a confederation of secular parties and doesn’t belong only to the Congress. We’ll sit together to chalk out a common minimum programme and select the next PM,” Lalu told reporters, rejecting the Congress position that Manmohan is the PM candidate.

Late on Tuesday, Prasad called Pranab to see that the ties between the two UPA parties do not spin out of control after the war of words, reported PTI.

The two allies have come a long way — over a very short period of time — from that they were considered inseparable. Lalu Yadav was believed to be the Congress’s most trusted ally.

And then they fell apart over Bihar. Lalu and the other UPA ally Ramvilas Paswan struck up a side alliance and announced a seat sharing arrangement without consulting their bigger ally, the Congress.

Earlier during the campaign, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, 62, had blamed Lalu for the “dark days” that his party’s rule had brought on Bihar while Lalu got back at the Congress blaming it for the destruction of Babri Masjid.

Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan, 54, attributed the Railway Minister’s outbursts as frustrations over “his impending defeat and the Congress revival in Bihar”. “Lalu is feeling the heat due to resurgence of Congress in Bihar,” Natarajan said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (76), however, downplayed the developments. “We are a coalition government. This coalition came into existence after the elections in 2004. So in a coalition, if one colleague criticises the other on the eve of the election I don’t think we should take a too tragic view of this,” he told Times Now in an interview.

Meanwhile, speaking to HT in exclusive interview (full text inside) Mukherjee has ruled out the possibility of his party supporting the Third Front to form a government, not even to keep the BJP out of power. In 1990 and in 1996 Congress had supported different constellations of regional parties in order to keep the BJP out. Mukherjee said it would be different this time. “I say with confidence there is no future of the Third Front in the elections. It is like the Holy Roman Empire – neither holy, nor Roman and not even an Empire. Congress is fighting the elections to win and we will not pledge support to any front,” he said.

The Congress is, however, willing to take support from other parties to form a government at the Centre.