Union minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla said in Patna on Thursday the Congress would form a 'new alliance' in Bihar ahead of the next general election.
"The Congress is working towards the formation of a new alliance in Bihar before the next Lok Sabha poll," Shukla told reporters, soon after arriving in Patna, along with union corporate affairs minister Sachin Pilot.
Shukla and Pilot were in Patna on their way to Saran in north Bihar to campaign for Jitendra Swami, the Congress nominee in the June 2 by-poll for the Maharajganj Lok Sabha seat.
Even though Shukla did not name any party, his statement was significant in the context of reports of 'growing warmth' between the Congress and Bihar's ruling coalition senior partner, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U).
Shukla's words may have caused concern in the Lalu Prasad-led RJD, which has reportedly been hoping to revive its nine-year (2000-2009) alliance with the Congress, which fell through ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha poll.
His utterances may also be a source of worry for the BJP, the JD (U)'s NDA ally and its partner in the coalition that rules Bihar.
The ties between the two have been under strain since chief minister Nitish Kumar's thinly veiled attack last month on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, cited as the BJP's potential PM nominee.
Another likely ally Shukla may have been referring to is Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), an RJD ally, at present.
UPA's assistance to Bihar
Shukla said the UPA government at the centre was extending all assistance to Bihar for its development. In this context, he cited the recent Rs 12,000 crore 'special assistance' package announced for Bihar.
This was a reference to the special plan assistance under the backward region grant fund (BRGF), announced by the planning commission, for the 12th five-year plan period.
On the likelihood of Bihar getting the 'special category state' status, Shukla said a committee under Raghuram Rajan, chief economic advisor to union government, was deliberating on revised criteria for determining the backwardness of a state.
"Further steps will be taken on the basis of the recommendations of the committee," Shukla said.