DEHLI:With a plea, a stern put-down, a reminder of old loyalties and reassurance of friendship, Bihar’s former CM and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad told potential electoral partners Congress and Ram Vilas Paswan to be pragmatic and work together to ‘stop Narendra Modi’. His message comes at a time when seat-sharing talks between the three parties have hit a rough patch. In an exclusively interview to HT about alliance talks, and his dynamics with the Gandhi family.
“Modi will break the country. The 1947 calendar will repeat itself. He is a very serious threat.” “Secular forces must come together so that votes do not get divided. My mind was open to the left too. But there is a contradiction there — left parties can’t come where Congress is present.” “I prefer Congress because it is an all-India party,” Prasad said.
Other RJD sources told HT that out of 40 seats, Prasad is keen to fight on at least 24. Congress has privately told RJD it wants 15 seats.Paswan has asked for 12 seats, while Nationalist Congress Party has demanded two.
Prasad placed these demands in context. “We have to look at winnability and candidate. The point is how much will you win.” “Caste politics is everywhere but in Bihar, we practice it more. That calculation is also important.”
Other RJD sources were more direct, mocking Congress for ‘punching above its weight’. But Congress sources said Prasad was being too ‘rigid’ and if they accepted his terms, top Congress leaders would be left without seats.
One Congress state-level leader said, “The aim is to ensure Muslim vote consolidates behind this alliance. Along with support of Yadavs and Paswans, and some upper-castes, we can present a strong counter to BJP.”
When asked about whether he felt the Congress first-family was in crisis, Prasad, said, “I always stand by people in crisis. Congress is getting unnecessarily criticised.” Did he feel Congress was in crisis because of Rahul’s failures? “I will not comment on that at all,” said Prasad.