With Ramvilas Paswan close to sealing an alliance with the BJP, which has offered his party seven seats, the Congress and RJD on Wednesday reached out to the LJP chief in last-ditch efforts to dissuade him from joining the saffron brigade.
While the Congress agreed to concede the Jamui seat, which Paswan wants for his son Chirag, the RJD appeared to scale down from its position to offer the LJP six seats now in place of five.
Amid speculation of Paswan meeting BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi Thursday before formally announcing the alliance with the BJP, Union Minister of State for Finance J D Seelam spoke to Paswan and conveyed a message from Congress president Sonia Gandhi to stay put in the “secular” alliance.
With Paswan talking about taking “alternative” routes, RJD chief Lalu Prasad also intensified efforts to placate him. Sources said RJD now has reportedly agreed to contest 23 seats and spare six seats for LJP and 11 for Congress. It is learnt that Paswan started holding talks with BJP after Congress earlier failed to broker peace between the RJD and LJP over seat-sharing.
Sources, however, indicated the LJP chief has gone “too far” in his discussions with the BJP and may not step back from his current stance, which has already cost him his party’s lone MLA Zakir Hussain Khan, who resigned from the party on Wednesday. “I have faxed my resignation from the post of vice-president of LJP,” the Araria MLA said. He said he had resigned to protest against the proposed alliance with the BJP.
However, Paswan appeared to be unperturbed, more so with the BJP taking “good care” of most of his party’s seat preferences. BJP has offered LJP Hajipur, Samastipur and Jamui. While Paswan will contest from Hajipur, which was once his fortress, his younger brother Ramchandra Paswan will contest from Samastipur and son Chirag from Jamui.
Other seats falling in LJP’s kitty could be Munger, from where former Balia MP Suraj Bhan Singh’s wife would contest. The LJP is also being offered Vaishali but it is insisting on Ara, which the BJP has reportedly kept for former Union home secretary R K Singh, who recently joined the BJP. Discussions on the LJP’s request are still on.
The BJP, however, is willing to offer Paswan Munger and Khagaria seats. But it cannot offer LJP Nawada seat, which may go to Upendra Kushwaha-led Rashtriya Lok Samata Party. BJP is also against conceding Begusarai seat to LJP as former BJP minister and Narendra Modi loyalist Giriraj Singh is a claimant for it. A BJP source said: “We are offering LJP seven seats, including four preferred ones. Once Paswanji meets Narendra Modi, things will take final shape.”
RJD chief Lalu Prasad said he had been trying his best to save the alliance with LJP. “We need to talk, we will address his concerns. But his personal assistant is not getting me talk to him.” Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee president Ashok Kumar Choudhary said: “We had been expecting RJD and LJP to strike the deal first before entering the scene. Maybe Paswanji expected the Congress to play a mediator. We are making all efforts to ensure he stays in our alliance.” Ashok, who was a potential claimant for Jamui seat, said: “I met Paswanji and said that I want to leave Jamui for Chirag.”