Ending speculation, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan signalled on Wednesday that his party was set to return to the BJP-led NDA ahead of the coming Lok Sabha polls. Paswan had quit his ministerial berth and walked out of the alliance in 2002, in protest against the Gujarat riots.
Ending a decade-old alliance with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) over differences in seat-sharing, Paswan said his party’s parliamentary board had authorised him to look for “all possible alternatives”. Indicating his choice, he dismissed the idea of a Third Front.
Addressing a press conference, he said, “Now that we are not part of the alliance (with RJD), we are looking for other options. All options are now open. The BJP is an option. A number of members in our parliamentary board are in favour of joining the NDA…I have been empowered to take tough decisions for the sake of protecting the party’s existence.”
He said a formal announcement would be made “in a day or two”. The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, will be in Delhi over the next two days and a meeting between the two leaders is not being ruled out. It is learnt that while the BJP has offered seven seats, the LJP is negotiating for eight seats.
“We have been waiting for the Congress to take a decision on seat-sharing. I met Sonia Gandhi and C P Joshi (AICC general secretary in charge of Bihar) twice, but there was a deadlock. They did not seem serious about it. A small party like us needs more time to prepare for elections so we needed clarity on seats and alliances, which was not coming from their side,” said Paswan.
According to sources, Paswan sent party general secretary Abdul Khaliq to Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel for a last-ditch effort last week. But Patel reportedly told Khaliq that the RJD did not want to give the LJP more than three-four seats.
“We had our grievances with the RJD for a long time. I even went to meet Lalu Prasad in jail. But soon after he was released, RJD leaders started saying LJP should be given three seats. That is why we left it to the Congress to decide on seat-sharing. I waited for months, but there was no decision,” he said.
Reacting to Paswan’s announcement, BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said, “The LJP has come out with its view, the BJP leadership will take a view on it. He (Paswan) has mentioned BJP is an option, the central leadership of the party will take a call… We will try to connect with whoever supports Modi as the Prime Minister.”
After Paswan first sent feelers to the BJP less than a fortnight back, it continued…
The party is also expected to appoint 15 parliamentary secretaries.