A new political bloc emerged within the UPA alliance on Thursday, with Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, Lok Janshakti Party head Ram Vilas Paswan and Samajwadi Party boss Mulayam Singh Yadav tying up to contest all 40 seats in Bihar and 80 in Uttar Pradesh, together.
Accordingly Mulayam, unlike in past elections, will not nominate any candidate for any seat in Bihar, while Paswan will withdraw the candidates he has already named in UP. They include the late prime minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh’s son Ajeya Singh, who had been named the LJP’s Fatehpur candidate. Lalu Prasad has no candidates in UP, but will campaign for Mulayam’s nominees there.
Lalu Prasad and Paswan had sealed their pact a week ago, but the roping in of Mulayam is clearly designed to increase the trio’s bargaining power vis a vis the Congress after the elections. “It is a front of sorts,” said SP leader Amar Singh at a press conference in Delhi.
The new front is all the more surprising because Lalu and Mulayam have been bitter rivals in the past, as much as Lalu and Paswan were before they came together. Indeed it was Lalu who scuttled Mulayam’s single shot at prime ministership in 1997, when the then United Front government at the center was looking for a substitute for incumbent prime minister HD Deve Gowda.
Lalu protested so strongly that Mulayam’s candidature was dropped and Inder Gujral chosen instead.
“It was a compulsion,” said a senior RJD leader. “It shows how the Congress’s decision to fight alone in these two states has upset the poll calculations of all three. They want to muster a good number of MPs so they can bargain hard with the Congress after the polls.”
Leaders of all three parties, however, clarified that despite the failure of seat arrangements with the Congress, they remained part of the UPA.
“We are still part of the UPA,” Lalu said. Paswan also parried queries on whether they would seek third front’s help to form government at the center.