Lalu Prasad on Monday met Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi for the second time this month amid indications that the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress were working out the nitty-gritty of forging a "secular alliance" in Bihar.
The RJD chief's meeting is significant as it took place a day after senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh met Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan to discuss the issue. Singh is a strong votary of secular alliance and had spoken to Prasad in the last few days as well.
Both the LJP and the RJD have been praising the Congress and making it clear that they want the ruling party to be an integral part of the "secular alliance" in Bihar, having 40 parliamentary seats.
Senior Congress leaders have said that a decision on alliance is expected "very soon". There are two views in the Congress over the issue but a dominant section of leaders favour an alliance with Prasad to fight a resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party.
The LJP, which had made it clear that it was with the Congress, has been off late inching closer to Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United in Bihar but said it had left the final decision on including the RJD or JD-U in the "secular alliance" to the Congress.
While the RJD chief has met Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul earlier as well, Paswan also had a meeting with the Congress chief sometime back.
However, the All India Congress Committee remained ambivalent on the issue of alliance in Bihar as well as in Tamil Nadu with senior spokesperson Mukul Wasnik saying that there is a committee headed by A K Antony to examine the issue and it will first formulate a view.
Wasnik, who had been the AICC general secretary in-charge for Bihar in past however, remained tighlipped about it.
"I was once upon the in-charge of Bihar. Now there is somebody else and it won't be appropriate for me to comment what is correct to or what is no," he said when asked whether it will be appropriate for the Congress to ally with Prasad, who has been convicted in fodder scam.
Sources said that in one of the formulae being discussed for the pre-poll tie up, the RJD could contest on 20 Lok Sabha seats, the Congress ten, the LJP eight and the Nationalist Congress Party two.
However, sources in the RJD say that the party, which is major constituent in the proposed alliance, is keen to contest on around 25 seats, leaving five to six for LJP, seven for Congress, one for NCP and one for the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist.
Hard bargaining is expected in coming days before an alliance is finally stitched for the crucial Hindi state. The RJD has fought on 28 Lok Sabha seats in the last polls, including the three-which it had earlier proposed to give to the Congress.
Paswan, whose party had contested the last Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the RJD minus the Congress, had said a few days ago that there are two views in his party on the issue of alliance in Bihar with one section favouring to go with the RJD while the other wanting an alliance with the JD-U.
The LJP chief had at the same time said that he has no complaints against Lalu Prasad but there are some leaders in the RJD whose statements have hurt the LJP workers. He was apparently referring to senior RJD leader
Raghuvansh Prasad Singh's remark asking the LJP to declare its candidates and suggesting that it focus on winning more seats rather than contesting more seats.
The Congress, LJP and RJD had fought the 2004 Lok Sabha elections together winning 29 out 40 parliamentary seats in Bihar. However, the alliance broke in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls when the RJD decided to offer only three seats to the Congress, a decision which Prasad and Paswan have been regretting ever since.
Paswan's party contested eight seats in 2004 with the Congress as part of the alliance while it fought on 12 seats in 2009 when the Congress was out of the alliance. In 2004 despite fighting on eight seats, Paswan's party won in four.
While the LJP could not open its account and even party chief Paswan lost from home turf Hajipur, the RJD won only four seats and the Congress two in 2009.
A few days back Prasad had sought to woo both the parties flagging threat from "communal forces" as the reason why the three should come together to fight the Lok Sabha election.