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UPA cracks in Bihar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 21
Squabbling in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) took a turn for the worse today with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress hitting out at each other in public though both sides stopped short of severing their ties, keeping their options open for a post-poll alliance.

The once-favourite ally of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav sought to show the Congress its place in Bihar, saying the party had no base whatsoever in the state, and Sonia Gandhi would realise the importance of the RJD after the elections.

The RJD chief’s outburst followed the Congress decision to fight 37 of Bihar’s 40 seats and welcomed his rebel brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav into its fold. The RJD and the LJP had earlier unilaterally shared most of the Bihar seats between them and left just three for the Congress - a decision dubbed as an act of betrayal by the grand old party.

The Congress was equally quick to hit back at the RJD. Describing these developments as a “blessing in disguise”, AICC media department chief Veerappa Moily said: “We have now been provided a more liberal space” and that the Congress would now occupy its rightful space in the Hindi belt.

“Better options are available for the Congress which will now be able to show its real strength,” Moily said. The Congress is particularly perturbed as the RJD supremo is building bridges with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayum Singh Yadav with the two old Socialists teaming up to consolidate the Yadav-Muslim vote bank in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

An unrepentant Lalu reiterated that the RJD and LJP would stick to their seat sharing formula in Bihar and would even field candidates on the three seats which it had originally left for the Congress, adding that his party will also contest four seats in Jharkhand as against the two which the Congress had given them. “The UPA is not the Congress alone,” said a visible-perturbed Lalu, who slammed Sonia Gandhi’s advisers for misguiding her on Bihar.

Even as the two sides traded charges, both chose to keep their options open for a post-poll partnership. The RJD rejected talk about fissures in the UPA saying he was very much part of the ruling alliance. “We are still in the UPA. If anyone wants to part ways with the RJD, they can leave,” he declared. LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan said his party remained committed to strengthening the UPA.

Moily, on his part, maintained there was no final closure in politics and that the doors of the Congress would always be open for good, secular forces. While the Congress hedged its bets, it is clear there is a serious trust deficit between the grand old party and its allies.

Senior Congress leaders suspect the old Socialist leaders are engaged in much larger game-plan of weakening their party since they occupy the same political space and are both angling for the minority vote bank. There is a large section in the Congress which opposes pre-poll alliances on the plea that unless it grows out of the shadows of its allies, it will never revive in critical states like UP and Bihar.

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