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‘Does the Congress even exist in Bihar?’

Lalu Prasad speaks to Anirban Guha Roy about the politics behind the seat-sharing pact, poll issues and his new-found friendship with Samajwadi Party.

india Updated: Mar 28, 2009 00:21 IST

Do you feel the Congress has rubbed you the wrong way by breaking a pre-poll alliance in Bihar?

Lalu Prasad: Congress is a big party. It has its own agenda. But I do feel that the Congress should have considered taking along leaders like me and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. We have been together in espousing the cause of social justice and forming a pre-poll alliance in Bihar and UP. They could have given it a second thought before breaking off the alliance. We both had played a major role in shaping the UPA government in its darkest days. I had provided unstinted support to Sonia Gandhi and PM Manmohan Singh throughout the tenure of UPA government. But I will reiterate, we are still within the UPA.

So, why did the seat sharing talks fail with the Congress?

Lalu: I do not know, but I feel they wanted to go it alone and build the organisation. But, this is not the right time for that. I believe the Congress has committed a big mistake by deciding to contest the polls alone without the RJD, LJP and the SP. The party would certainly realise its mistake one day.

Was the offer of three seats to Congress justified?

Lalu: To be true, the seat sharing agreement on the 25:12:3 formula was a fair deal. We had offered Congress three seats, as the party does not have any sizeable vote base in Bihar and UP. I offered more seats to Paswan, as he has a bigger base in Bihar. The Congress base has been dwindling in the cow belt region. There is no merit in giving seats just to add up the numbers. It would have damaged the UPA. In the last 2004 election, the Congress fought four seats of which it only won three. So, what could one conclude from that?

Do you feel the Congress stand of going alone is an indication that it does not want to have regional partners like you and the SP?

Lalu: Congress has its own politics. But, the moot point is that the Congress is not likely to get a majority to form government on its own. It will need coalition partners. This is a coalition era and the Congress cannot deny it. But, I still have high regard for Soniaji and Manmohan Singh. We (read allies) will once again try our best to form government with Dr Singh as the PM. If the Congress wants us there, we will be there.

You had said that Sonia Gandhi was misled by her party members about ties with the RJD. Who are they?

Lalu: There are people in the Congress, who have done it. But I would not like to rake that issue. Yes, the state unit members always wanted to sever ties with the RJD and contest the polls alone. Ab toh bhar pet lar rehein hain. Larein.

Will you attack Congress in your campaigns now that you two aren’t partners?

Lalu: No, I will not attack the Congress. Why should I do that? Does the Congress even exist in Bihar? We can all see how they are desperately hunting for candidates to field from 40 seats.

There is speculation that you might be the Prime Ministerial candidate in case you ally with the Third Front. Is there any chance of you joining hands with them?

Lalu: The Third Front is surely a secular alliance. But, we are not in contact with its leaders. Moreover, I have had a bitter experience with them earlier. As for becoming PM, every politician has a dream of holding the top post in the country. What is so wrong about it?

In the coming election, what will the main issues be?
Lalu: Communalism and growing fascist forces.

Will the RJD take credit for the UPA’s achievements?
Lalu: Why not? After all, the common minimum programme was drafted by us (allies), not the Congress alone. The achiev-ements of the Manmohan government are ours too.

Is the pact with Mulayam an attempt to browbeat the Congress and bargain hard after the voting?

Lalu
: We have allied with Mulayam to strengthen the secular bloc and defeat the NDA.