M A I N   N E W S

Paswan meets Sonia
Bihar heading for President’s rule
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 1
Congress President Sonia Gandhi today failed to bring about a rapproachment between the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) as the warring UPA allies hardened their positions and refused to support each other in the formation of the next government in Bihar.

While LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan is mounting pressure on the Congress to stay neutral in this ongoing battle, the RJD is pressing Mrs Gandhi that the LJP be dropped from the UPA if it does not support the formation of a secular government in Bihar.

Mr Paswan, who had an hour-long meeting with Mrs Gandhi today, also proposed that the Janata Dal (U) along with other non-BJP and non-RJD parties get together to form a government, failing which Central rule should be imposed in Bihar. This suggestion was promptly shot down by JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav who said his party would not snap ties with the BJP.

RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav's close associate Prem Gupta, who also met the Congress president this morning, reportedly stated that if Mr Paswan considered himself to be a constituent of the UPA, he should assist the formation of a secular government in Bihar, failing which his party should be dropped from the ruling combine.

On record, however, the RJD chief claimed in Patna that his party along with its pre-poll allies headed the largest political formation in the hung Assembly. Mr Yadav is embroiled in mustering the requisite numbers for his party in Patna and failed to show up for this evening's UPA coordination committee meeting.

Given the intractable positions taken by the two sides, Congress leaders believe they need more time to bring down temperatures for which a spell of President's rule would be the best option.

Reiterating that his party would not have any truck with either the BJP or the RJD, Mr Paswan told Mrs Gandhi that the Congress should not become an appendage of the RJD, especially since Mr Yadav had campaigned vigorously against their party and even gone out of its way to defeat its candidates.

Mr Paswan, who also had separate meetings with senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Arjun Singh, urged the Congress to refrain from taking sides in what is essentially a battle between two state players. He also reminded Mrs Gandhi that since both the RJD and the LJP were UPA constituents, the Congress should refrain from taking sides in what was essentially a "state matter."

Mr Paswan also clarified that his party would vote against the NDA and the RJD in case either side was called to prove its majority in the Assembly.

With the RJD and the LJP showing no signs whatsoever of a climbdown, the Congress was fighting hard to keep the UPA alliance intact. Mr Paswan's proposal for the formation of a non-BJP and non-RJD government in Bihar is just not feasible.

One wrong move by the Congress could drive the LJP to the NDA camp.


UPA allies discuss strategies
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 1
There was a near “universal unanimity” among the UPA leaders tonight on the formation of secular, non-NDA governments in Bihar and Jharkhand. “There was almost universal, unanimity in the UPA that there should be secular, non-NDA Governments in Bihar and Jharkhand,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh told newspersons after the UPA Coordination Committee meeting at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence.

The meeting also decided on setting up a sub-committee to deliberate on several measures on electoral reforms suggested by the Election Commission and the comments of the Law and Justice Ministry in this regard.

The UPA constituents also discussed the strategy to ensure the passage of pending Bills, including those relating to employment guarantee scheme and right to information.

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