Indian Express

JD(U) rules out tie-up, Lalu starts own campaign, clock ticks down for Congress

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Narendra Modi with Rajnath Singh, Kalyan Singh and other party leaders at his Lucknow rally on Sunday. Vishal Srivastav Narendra Modi with Rajnath Singh, Kalyan Singh and other party leaders at his Lucknow rally on Sunday. (Express Photo: Vishal Srivastav)

The JD(U) has ruled out an alliance with the Congress, saying it cannot resort to “political opportunism” and desert the non-Congress and non-BJP front it recently formed.

The rejection further limits the Congress’s options in Bihar, with Ram Vilas Paswan having already walked out and the RJD getting restless as a “deadline” by it to decide on an alliance passed Sunday. The stalemate over their talks continues, with the RJD offering the Congress 11 seats and the party insisting on 13. The two also disagree over the seats the Congress should get.

The Congress had approached Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, promising to “push” his special category status demand for the state in exchange for an alliance. Sources said the JD(U) asked the Congress to move the Bihar special status demand file with Seemandhra’s if it really cared for the state. “It is too late now for an alliance with the Congress. We are the prime mover behind the 11-party non-Congress and non-BJP front. Even if the Congress offers special status, we may not change our stance now,” said a JD(U) leader close to Nitish Kumar.

Admitting a stalemate with the RJD, a Congress leader said: “We may settle for even 11 seats provided we are offered Madhubani, Sitamarhi, Nawada, Jhanjharpur and Motihari. But the RJD is offering us reserved seats. How can we fight the BJP if we do not have even some upper caste-dominated seats?”

The Congress believes that the RJD has more to lose. “We fought alone last time and managed to win two seats. We can only improve even if we fight alone. It is the RJD that has to decide whether it can afford fragmentation of secular votes,” said a source.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad gave some indication Sunday of a softening of stand, saying communal forces should be kept at bay. Party leaders also hinted at accommodating a few of the Congress demands, including conceding the Khagaria seat. However, there was no response from the Congress leadership till late evening.

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