M A I N   N E W S

Lalu too busy to attend Cabinet meet
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8
With key members of the Congress-led UPA - RJD) and the LJP - miffed over Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's praise of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the grand old party on Friday made an all-out attampt to save the situation from getting further out of hand.

Under attack from the RJD and the LJP over Gandhi’s flattering remarks on the Bihar Chief Minister, the Congress tried to mollify them by saying that it was certainly not “going to make a hero of Nitish Kumar” and also that it disapproved the way he had handled Bihar floods.

Railway Minister Lalu Prasad and Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan skipping the Cabinet on Friday was being seen as a clear indication of how upset the two leaders were over what they perceived as overtures made by the Congress General Secretary to their arch rival in Bihar.

At a press conference earlier this week Gandhi had praised Nitish Kumar’s developmental work in Bihar.

However, the three key players in the drama-the Congress, the RJD and the LJP- tried to downplay the issue of Lalu and Paswan skipping the meeting. Refusing to read much into the speculation in political circles that Lalu and Paswan were angry, the Congress leadership termed the RJD and the LJP “important members” of the UPA family

So as Congress leader Kapil Sibal asserted that Lalu and Paswan continued to be a part of the UPA, slipping into an active damage control exercise senior party leader Veerappa Moily rebuffed the Bihar chief minister’s “unwelcoming remarks” on Gandhi’s praise. “Nitish thinks too much of himself. He will regret staying with the BJP. We are not reaching out to him,” he said, adding that his party was unhappy with the way Nitish handled the Bihar floods.

“I don’t think the Congress is going to make a hero of Nitish Kumar. The manner in which he has aligned with the BJP and is carrying on -that is the kind of a pollution of his secular credentials with the communal,” news agency reports quoted Moily as saying.

Sibal explained that the reason Lalu and Paswan had skipped the Cabinet meeting was because of their busy election itinerary. “Raghuvansh Prasad Singh is attending the meeting, he is from the same party (RJD). Both Lalu and Paswan continue to be important UPA allies,” he stressed.

Sources say that hectic parleys continued throughout the day to persuade Lalu to ask Raghuvansh Prasad Singh to attend the meeting scheduled in the evening.

As far as Paswan is concerned, he said he skipped the meeting as he had a previously scheduled election meeting Kolkata “Moreover, there was no agenda of my ministry,” he added. LJP secretary general Abdul Khalik also told a news agency that “there is no question of boycotting the cabinet meeting. We are still in UPA and in the Cabinet.”

However, he acknowledged that there was unhappiness in the rank and file of LJP over Rahul's remarks and that “his statement during elections only benefited JD(U)”. In fact, he even claimed that Congress candidates in Patna Sahib and Nalanda got their votes transferred to JD(U) candidates after Gandhi's remarks.



HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |