Amid signs of a rift between the JD(U) and BJP over the oppositions prime ministerial candidate,the Congress is learnt to be inclined to join hands with the JD(U) if it parts ways with its coalition partner.
According to Congress sources,at least two senior leaders and UPA ministers are in touch with some JD(U) leaders who are close to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. There are indications from the JD(U),said sources,that it would be willing to offer Congress nine of the 12 Lok Sabha seats that are currently held by the BJP. The Congress has two MPs from Bihar. These talks are more in terms of gauging each others mood. We have had discussions in the party on this issue,but it would be premature to say anything unless and until the JD(U) and the BJP split, a senior Congress leader told The Indian Express.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is said to be favourably inclined towards JD(U),given the meeting of minds between the parties over a development agenda.
Although the Congress could secure only four seats in the 243-member Assembly in 2010 elections with a voteshare of 8.38 per cent,as per the assessment of party leaders,its support could be crucial for both the JD(U) and RJD. They believe that if the JD(U) breaks ties with the BJP,it would need the Congress to consolidate its support base among minorities and to wean away upper caste voters who are largely with the BJP.
Although RJD supremo Lalu Prasad has been drawing bigger crowds in his public meetings,of late,claimed Congress leaders,upper castes and the aspirational class have still not forgotten Lalu raj.
On the other hand,if JD(U) and BJP stick together,Congress leadership is confident that Lalu would anyway be compelled to ally with the Congress. The RJD supremo has been reaching out to senior Congress leaders from the state and offering them seats to contest if they could persuade the Central leadership to have an alliance with him.
The RJD,LJP and Congress together would be a formidable challenge to the JD(U). We may be a small player in Bihar today but our support would be crucial, said a Congress leader. As for Rahuls long-term goal of reviving the party,sources said he is convinced it has to distance itself from Lalus legacy.