Friday, March 3, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cong, RJD reach pact?

NEW DELHI, March 2 (PTI, UNI) — The Congress and the RJD tonight reached an understanding on Congress support to the RJD in forming the new government in Bihar but withheld a formal announcement till tomorrow.

This became clear following a third round of talks between RJD Chief Laloo Prasad Yadav with a group of senior Congress leaders led by Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Manmohan Singh.

“Since Sonia Gandhi is not here and it is a matter of decorum, we are not saying anything”, Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav said emerging from the hour-long meeting indicating that an agreement has been reached.

Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee said: “We have discussed everything and the final decision will be made only after Mrs Gandhi returns tomorrow”.

Mr Yadav’s discussions with Congress leaders followed the CWC decision yesterday to call him to Delhi for discussions to “sort out” certain issues between the two parties.

The RJD chief gave a clear hint that a deal had been struck with Congress by saying his party would be forming the new government with the help of other secular parties like the CPM, the CPI, the CPI-ML and the BSP.

“Have I been talking to the Congress leaders for three to four hours without any hope”, he quipped when asked if he was “hopeful” of a positive outcome of the talks.

Bihar PCC President Sadanand Singh, who attended the parleys for the first time, declared that though the Congress had fought against corruption in the elections “communalism is more poisonous than anything else”.

To a specific query whether the Congress would participate in the coalition headed by the RJD, he said “everything is under consideration”.

Mr Mukherjee said there was a “meeting point” between the two sides on the contentious issue of Jharkhand. While RJD had opposed the creation of a separate state, the Congress had been demanding statehood for Jharkhand.

Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav sidestepped questions as to the issues taken up during the parleys saying, “We have discussed everything and the talks were positive aimed at keeping the communal forces out of power”.

Besides Mr Manmohan Singh, other Congress leaders who participated in the talks were Pranab Mukherjee, Madhavrao Scindia and Mohsina Kidwai, who is AICC General Secretary in charge of Bihar.

Significantly, JD-S leader S.R. Bommai participated in the third round apparently to help Mr Yadav to firm up the understanding.

In Patna, several senior Congressmen announced their decision to go on an indefinite ‘dharna’ (sit-in) at the state party headquarters from tomorrow in protest against joining hands with the RJD

In a two-page letter faxed to Ms Gandhi, the leaders said any alliance with the RJD would prove suicidal for the party.

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