The nine-year-old alliance between the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar officially snapped on Saturday.
<b1>The Congress said it would contest 37 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state. This follows the decision of the RJD and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) to sew up an alliance for 37 of Bihar’s 40 seats, leaving only three for the Congress. Thus, the Congress will face off against candidates put up by the RJD-LJP combine in at least 37 seats.
Hindustan Times was the first newspaper to report this on Saturday.
Senior Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde said: “We came to know about the RJD-LJP deal via the media. Our workers felt insulted. So, this time, we’ll contest 37 seats.”
Shortly after the Congress announcement, RJD chief Lalu Prasad retaliated by withdrawing his earlier offer of leaving three seats for his former ally. “The Congress has no presence in Bihar, UP and West Bengal,” he declared, adding: “We (RJD and LJP) are the UPA in Bihar.”
However, in an indication that the RJD chief was not yet ready to burn all bridges, Lalu said he remained “a part and parcel” of the UPA, thus, keeping the possibility of a post-poll rapprochement with the Congress open. “I have the deepest respect for Sonia Gandhi and our efforts will be to install Manmohan Singh as PM,” he said, adding that he had no intention of resigning as Railways Minister.
Shinde, too, said the same thing. “The UPA government is intact. This is the business of political parties; it has nothing to do with UPA.”
Meanwhile, in a clear indication of the hardening stands of the two parties, Lalu’s brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav met Congress President Sonia Gandhi in Delhi on Saturday morning. He had resigned from the RJD on Thursday following the denial of ticket by his former party.
“The party [Congress] has decided to field me from the Betiah Lok Sabha seat after I expressed full faith in Soniaji’s leadership,” Sadhu said after the meeting.
Lalu reacted to this in his inimitable style. “The Congress will gain nothing by flogging dead horses like Sadhu Yadav and Ramai Ram [another RJD rebel who has crossed over to the Congress.”)