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January 20, 2000
Laloo will get 7 seats in south Bihar: govt survey
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
A preliminary government survey has underscored that Laloo Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal will get a maximum of five to seven seats in south Bihar during the coming assembly elections in Bihar.
"According to this report, submitted to the ministry of home affairs, Laloo's best efforts have not been able to prevent an emphatic downswing in his party's electoral prospects. It says that out of the 75 assembly seats in the region, the RJD will get a maximum of five to seven. The Jharkhand People's Party will get a couple of seats while the rest will be bagged by the BJP," senior officials told rediff.com.
South Bihar, which the BJP considers as its stronghold, has 18 districts with 14 Lok Sabha constituencies. In the recent Lok Sabha elections too, the RJD's efforts to wrest additional seats in the region from the saffron party met with little success.
But the government's latest survey pertaining to the assembly polls in Bihar has indicated that the RJD's political clout in the region has reached its nadir. This is why Laloo is running from pillar to post in a bid to stop the National Democratic Alliance electoral juggernaut which had clinched a combined total of 41 seats. The RJD had won only the Chatra parliamentary seat in the region.
According to the officials, the survey has also emphasised that Muslims in Bihar will by and large vote for the Congress with which Laloo's RJD has not concluded any alliance unlike during the parliamentary polls.
Significantly, at his media conference in New Delhi yesterday along with former prime minister and senior Janata Dal leader H D Deve Gowda, Laloo had asserted that "it is the Congress which has divorced the RJD and not agreed to an alliance for the assembly polls''. The RJD chief added that he did not favour his party's "remarriage" with the Congress.
But such bravado notwithstanding, Laloo is desperately seeking allies to stem the NDA tide for the loss of his wife Rabri Devi's RJD state government would land him in thick soup. Already, the BJP's Sushil Kumar Modi, the leader of the opposition in the Bihar assembly, has repeatedly asserted that if the NDA replaces the Rabri government, woe would betide the RJD supremo.
Apart from the multi-crore fodder scam, Laloo is allegedly facing other serious charges that have the potential of ruining his political career if he is convicted. That is an eventuality which opposition leaders like Modi in Bihar would love to see, BJP sources pointed out.
The assembly polls in Bihar are being fought by three fronts. The first comprises the RJD and the Communist Party of India-Marxist. Senior Marxist leader Harkishen Singh Surjeet's party has preferred to ignore Laloo's alleged role in the fodder scam in order not to split what he says are secular votes.
The second front comprises the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist and Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party. Despite their recent camaraderie graphically captured on television, Mulayam Singh Yadav has refused to bite Laloo's bait to join the RJD-CPI-M alliance. Instead, the Samajwadi Party has decided to throw in its lot with the CPI-CPI-M-L combine, thus making the scenario tougher for Laloo.
The third and the most formidable front comprises the BJP, the Janata Dal-United, Anand Mohan's Bihar People's Party and the Jharkhand People's Party.
Laloo is aware that it will be difficult to retain his wife's RJD state government if he merely fights the polls with his party's alliance with the CPI-M. That is why he has made a fervent appeal to the Samajwadi Party to help stop the NDA onslaught. At his press conference in New Delhi yesterday, he said he was still keeping his doors open for an alliance with the CPI and the SP.
However, so far, there has been no response from these parties to Laloo's overtures, even though Surjeet too is utilising his persuasive prowess on Mulayam and the CPI leadership.
But the picture is far from rosy in the NDA camp too. Although the BJP is clear that it will contest 165 of the 324 assembly seats in Bihar, it deferred the announcement of the list of party candidates for the first phase of the polls because the Samata Party and JD-U are still fighting over how many seats they will contest. BJP leaders hoped that the NDA list for Bihar would be announced today.
BJP leaders also dismissed as "pressure tactics" Samata Party leader Nitish Kumar's reported threat that he would abandon the ruling combine if his party did not get an adequate number of seats to fight in Bihar. "Where will Nitish and his party colleagues go if they abandon the NDA?" a senior BJP vice-president asked.
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