Sonia, Lalu in verbal slugfest | india | Hindustan Times
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Sonia, Lalu in verbal slugfest

Estranged allies Sonia Gandhi and Lalu Prasad hit out at each other in a rare display of combativeness on Monday, a day before the campaign for Phase I of polling in Bihar closes. Forty-seven of the 243 seats vote on Thursday. Srinand Jha & Anirban Guha Roy report.

india Updated: Oct 19, 2010 02:15 IST

Estranged allies Sonia Gandhi and Lalu Prasad hit out at each other in a rare display of combativeness on Monday, a day before the campaign for Phase I of polling in Bihar closes. Forty-seven of the 243 seats vote on Thursday.

At her first poll rally, in Muslim majority Kishanganj, the Congress chief accused the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief of having "sold dreams" but delivered little during his reign.

Within hours, Lalu hit back: "If Bihar is not developed, Congress is more responsible and Soniaji should know that."

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made the same points earlier.

The no-holds-barred combat between Gandhi and Lalu over secularism and development is indicative of the intense battle between the two former allies for the Dalits and Muslims.

Earlier, both shared an excellent personal rapport — crucial to the formation of the first UPA government in 2004.

With the Congress trying to find its feet in Bihar by wooing voters currently with the RJD, it's a fight for survival for both. Muslims constitute 16.5 per cent of Bihar's population, Dalits 16 per cent.

The Congress is going it alone while the RJD and Lok Janshakti Party are in alliance against the ruling JD(U)-BJP.

The focus of Gandhi's attack may have been Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whom she accused of failing to deliver on development and "falling into the lap of communalists", but she also underscored the point that Lalu was not the alternative: "Some others have remained in power for years and only sold dreams."

"I supported her in Delhi to stop the fascist forces but otherwise our thinking is not similar," Lalu retorted.