Debating India

New UPA formula for Bihar

Monday 23 May 2005, by VYAS*Neena

NEW DELHI: The battle for government formation in Bihar moved from Patna to the national capital on Sunday with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) making last-minute efforts to prevent the National Democratic Alliance from winning the numbers game.

Congress leader in-charge of Bihar affairs Harikesh Bahadur met Lok Jan Shakti Party chief and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan to make him relent on the issue of a UPA Government led by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the largest group in the Bihar Assembly.

According to authoritative sources in the Congress, the formula suggested was that the LJP agree to a chief minister from the minority community - as demanded by Mr. Paswan - but from the RJD rather than the Congress. It was also conveyed to Mr. Paswan that the Congress, with just 10 MLAs, was in no position to lead a government and that it was already committed to supporting an RJD-led dispensation. It seemed that Mr. Paswan was agreeable to the idea, left as he is with a rump of the 29 MLAs elected on the party ticket. However, there was no word from the RJD camp on whether its president Lalu Prasad would be agreeable to this.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury favoured a "secular" government of the UPA. He said that the "communal forces" represented by the NDA should not be allowed to form a government "through the backdoor." He told The Hindu that the mandate for a secular government should be respected.

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