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Ram Vilas Paswan, who left NDA over Modi, signals tie-up with BJP for ‘new option’
Twelve years after walking out of the NDA, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) led by Ram Vilas Paswan seemed set to return to the BJP-led alliance ahead of the coming Lok Sabha polls. Stating that the “option” of an alliance with the Congress-RJD is “deadlocked”, Paswan said “all options are open” now.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Paswan said, “The opinion in LJP is not against going with the BJP. A decision on an alliance will be taken in three-four days… The party looking for a new option means that there is a deadlock in the old alternative. Our alliance was with the RJD, that option is now deadlocked. There is now no dialogue, no communication.”
The party’s parliamentary board, headed by Paswan’s son, Chirag Paswan, authorised the party chief to take a final decision. “The LJP parliamentary board has passed a resolution that all steps, even if they are strong ones, should be taken in the interest of the party and if an alternative alliance is to be firmed up, party chief Ram Vilas Paswan should take the decision,” said Chirag Paswan. Asked if the LJP would tie up with the BJP, he replied, “All options are now open for the LJP”.
The LJP chief said the party’s parliamentary board members felt that the option of going with the BJP should be kept open. “We had our grievances with the RJD for a long time. I had even gone to meet Lalu Prasad in jail. But after he was released, RJD leaders started saying that the LJP should be given just three seats. We left it to the Congress to decide on seat-sharing. I waited for months, but there was no decision,” said Paswan.
“They assumed the LJP is nothing, it is irrelevant. If one (RJD) takes 25 seats, and the other (Congress) 15, it means they do not treat LJP as part of the alliance… That is why the party has authorised me to explore a new alternative,” he said.
Paswan had left the NDA and resigned from the Vajpayee government in the wake of the Gujarat riots in 2002. The LJP was part of the Congress-led UPA from 2004 to 2009.
Asked how he could tie up with the Modi-led BJP, Paswan said, “On the one hand there is personal emotion, and on the other there is the party. The party is like my mother and its decision is binding on all”.
Dismissing questions on whether an alliance with the BJP would affect his secular credentials, Paswan said, “The LJP will stick to its ideology. There is no need to tell the world that Ram Vilas Paswan is secular. Our party has suffered hugely for the cause of secularism. I even left the NDA when such an occasion arose.”
On Monday, Chirag had said, “If the court has given its verdict and they say he (Modi) is clean, then I do not think it is an issue to talk about now.” While several BJP leaders have met Chirag, BJP MP Shahnawaz Hussain called on the LJP chief a few days back, and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad met him on the occasion of Makar Sankranti last month.
According to reports, the BJP has offered seven of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar to the LJP, which is pressing for nine seats. LJP sources confirmed that talks with the BJP have progressed to a substantial level.
But the BJP, which has seen some of its Bihar leaders opposing the tie-up move, has not come on record, with its central leaders saying they can only comment if something concrete happens. The party, which is trying to woo Dalits, is expected to get a boost if a pre-poll alliance with LJP fructifies.
The Congress, which was keen on a tie-up with the RJD and LJP, has maintained that Paswan was only posturing and would not join the NDA. While the LJP won four Lok Sabha seats from Bihar in 2004, it failed to open its account in 2009, with Paswan himself losing from home turf Hajipur.
This time, both Paswan and Lalu Prasad were inclined to tie up with the Congress. While Prasad met Congress president Sonia Gandhi as well as Rahul Gandhi, Paswan had held consultations with the Congress chief on the issue.