I was a friend in need: Lalu reminds Sonia, Congress | india | Hindustan Times
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I was a friend in need: Lalu reminds Sonia, Congress

A day after the acrimonious split, the RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Sunday reminded the Congress that he was the only leader to have defended Sonia Gandhi on the issue of her foreign origin. Nagendar Sharma reports.See graphics

india Updated: Mar 23, 2009 22:08 IST
Nagendar Sharma

A day after the acrimonious split, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad on Sunday reminded the Congress that he was the only leader to have defended Sonia Gandhi on the issue of her foreign origin.

“I was the only one who defended Soniaji when she was being attacked on the issue of her foreign origin. Tell me which Congress leader had the guts to speak then? Where were they hiding at that time?” Lalu said.

“If the need arises, I will come out in her defence in future also. I have the highest regard for Soniaji, and would not drag her into any controversy,” the RJD chief said.

Stung by the Congress decision to go it alone in Bihar after the party rejected his offer to contest only three seats in an alliance, a visibly hurt Lalu challenged his estranged ally to try its strength in the state.

“The Congress wants to build its organisation during the elections instead of fighting the BJP. It is digging a well when one's house is on fire,” Lalu said.

He said since the Congress had decided to contest on its own, his party would also put up candidates on the three seats held by the Congress, which he had left for it earlier.

Lalu’s message was blunt: The Congress alone was not the United Progressive Alliance. “The conglomerate of many parties was given the name UPA.”

Defending his seat-sharing arrangement with the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Ram Vilas Paswan that spelt the end of the alliance with the Congress, Lalu said :“It was the need of the hour. We entered into an agreement to keep the communal
forces out.”

Lalu’s foe-turned-friend Paswan, too, defended their decision that marginalised the Congress. “I can tell you that the LJP will strengthen the UPA. The tie-up with the RJD will make us a strong force in Bihar, which in turn will strengthen the UPA,” he said.

Lalu, however, tried to keep his post-poll options open and described Manmohan Singh as a good prime minister and dismissed concerns over his health.

“Manmohan Singh is fit for a fight. We had a successful coalition under his leadership and we would come back again,” Lalu said.

Ruling out the possibility of joining the third front, the RJD chief said, “All UPA constituents would sit down after the elections and decide the future course. Let us see whether the name would be UPA or something else.”

Signalling a shift following parting of ways with the Congress, Lalu said he would campaign for Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP), if Mulayam desired.

“I can campaign for him in Uttar Pradesh and he can come to Bihar,” Lalu said.