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|August 19, 1999||
Laloo, Sonia make no headway on Bihar alliance
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
The fifth round of talks between the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal to share the Lok Sabha seats in Bihar also failed today with both sides refusing to climb down from their stated positions.
Asked why neither party held a press conference today, senior Congressman Pranab Mukherjee said: "It is because the talks are still continuing."
An RJD spokesman who did not want to be identified said party chief Laloo Prasad Yadav met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the morning and laid before her the ground reality.
Yadav reportedly expressed his inability to concede even one seat more than the 13 his party has earmarked for the Congress.
But Gandhi told him this figure would "simply not do" because it would lead to a revolt in the Bihar Congress. She told Yadav that the Congress has gained politically in the state over the past year, especially in the south where the people were fed up of the "communal forces" led by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
But Yadav, while acknowledging the need to combat the communal forces, pointed out that the backward classes remain entirely with his party, which is therefore best placed to take on the BJP and its allies.
Congress politicians like Mukherjee and treasurer Ahmed Patel also said the party could not remain satisfied with 13 seats. "We deserve more," they said.
Yadav later told followers that the talks were inconclusive and returned to Patna in the evening.
Jharkhand Regional Congress Committee spokesman Rajhans Mishra told rediff.com that partymen in south Bihar are up in arms against the RJD chief for his "insufferable approach".
According to Mishra, Laloo Yadav needs the Congress as much as the Congress needs him in Bihar.
"The RJD is losing ground. In Jharkhand, it is nowhere and only the Congress can stop the BJP," Mishra claimed. Yet, Yadav wants to contest four seats in the region, including Godda, he sneered.
He said Yadav had infuriated the voters of south Bihar by ignoring the region while disbursing funds for development. The state government is headed by Yadav's wife Rabri Devi.
In 1998, the BJP's Jagdambi Prasad Yadav had won the Godda seat with 334,015 votes while his Jharkhand Mukti Morcha rival got only 75,680 votes.
Mishra said Yadav was trying to mobilise the Yadav votes in the constituency, but would fail because the voters in Godda favour a separate Jharkhand, which Yadav has blocked.
Mishra accused Laloo Yadav of also casting his "covetous eyes" on Singbhum and Lohardagga, which were won by Congress candidates last year.
A senior Congressman said Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sadanand Singh had warned the party high command that unless it contested a minimum of 20-25 seats, chaos would prevail in the state unit.
The Congressman said that despite Singh's efforts to discipline partymen in Bihar, their political compulsions have placed them at loggerheads with the RJD. In fact, they are inclined to regard the RJD as an adversary rather than an ally.
The Congressman said his colleagues from Bihar believe the Muslims of the state have begun deserting the RJD because of Yadav's style of functioning.
Despite the sword of the multi-million-rupee fodder scandal hanging over his head, the RJD chief has become more abusive towards senior party colleagues, he claimed. Even Rabri Devi insults them publicly, he said.
As a result, some senior Muslim RJD leaders have sent feelers offering to cross over to the Congress if Yadav does not give them tickets this time, he said.
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