With Congress and LJP keeping him on tenterhooks, RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Tuesday sought to woo them flagging threat from "communal forces" as a reason why the three should come together to fight the Lok Sabha elections.
He praised Congress as an "umbrella" organisation of secular forces, which the country needs while saying that LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan is a "gentleman" but some people around him are not allowing him to take the right decision.
Prasad also attacked his bete noire Nitish Kumar, whom he accused of hobnobbing with BJP all along and was now claiming to be secular.
"My relationship with Ram Vilas Paswan has not soured at all. We talk with each other regularly...I have never said that we will not go for a tie-up with Ram Vilas Paswan's party Paswan is a gentleman, good human being. But there are some people around him that do not allow him to take a decision on his own. There are some people, who have a different thinking.
"There is no feeling of disrespect towards him from my side. Our tie-up was with his party earlier also and will remain now as well...My target is communal forces. I am not focusing on what one or the other leader is saying. We will stop communal forces in Bihar like we had done in fast," Prasad told PTI.
He further explained that when he uses the word we, "it is not only RJD. It is also taking together Congress and yes LJP too. All the three parties must come together to stop the communal and fascist forces."
His response came two days after Paswan threw the ball in Congress court, saying it is for that party to decide whether the secular alliance in Bihar will include RJD or JD(U).
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar yesterday ruled out any talks with Congress for a tie-up in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections but showered encomiums at Paswan amid buzz that LJP and JD(U) are close to formalise an alliance in Bihar.
Slamming Kumar over his secular pitch, Prasad said, "Nitish Kumar is not a factor in Bihar...Lalu cannot go with Nitish, a man who associated for so long with a party which fanned communalism and riots...He (Kumar) remained with BJP for six years at Centre and nine years in state.
"After associating for so long with a party that fanned communalism, he is now trying to stave off the stigma by projecting his separation from NDA as some sort of Ganga snan (bath in the holy Ganges)...Can Lalu go with Nitish Kumar? No it is impossible," Prasad said.
LJP fought last Lok Sabha polls in Bihar in alliance with RJD while Congress contested alone. RJD managed to win four seats while LJP drew a blank. Even Paswan lost from his bastion Hajipur. Congress had bagged two seats in 2009.
Both RJD and LJP regretted their decision to keep Congress out and are wooing the national party this time.
While Paswan met Congress President Sonia Gandhi a few days back, Prasad met both the Congress President and Vice President Rahul Gandhi and regretted his decision to give only three of the 40 Lok Sabha seats to the ruling party at the Centre and promised that the mistake won't be repeated.
"Congress is a very big umbrella organisation for secular forces. It has a big role in halting the march of communal forces. Congress is a party, whose roots are spread across the country. It should not be underestimated.
"Merely because it is not responding to the continuous abuses by others does not mean it is weak. Gentleness is being misused. This is no flattery I am doing. The country needs Congress now. Did any other government worked the way UPAI and UPAII did. There is no possibility for the BJP in Bihar," Prasad said emphasising that the next polls is a fight between communal and secular forces.
"In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the fight is again between communal and secular forces and the communal forces are again trying to bring in the same agenda...Fascist forces are trying to divide the nation. BJP has nothing do with Hindutva, it is only interested in coming to power by invoking Hindu Rasthra "Others may or may not understand this design. I understand it. I will try to meet this challenge with whatever might I have at my command. I come from a state, where aware secular persons live... We had stopped the horse of communalism in Bihar earlier also. Bihar will do it this time as well. There will be no big possibility for BJP in Bihar," Prasad said.
The RJD chief was apparently alluding to the event in 1990 when as Chief Minister of Bihar, he had ordered for stopping the Rath of L K Advani during the peak of the Ayodhya movement, which culminated in the fall of the V P Singh-led government at the Centre as BJP withdrew support in reaction.
"This is the responsibility of everybody now. I am not interested in picking up fights with my allies on which leader said what... From my side RJD's tie up was with LJP and will be with LJP," he said.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had earlier denied any talks with Congress for tie-up in Bihar.
"The reports of Congress weighing options between RJD or JD(U) for a tie-up in Bihar is non-existent... at no time anybody from JD(U) had a talk with the Congress at any level... JD(U) is not in any such queue," he had said.
Prasad ridiculed the remarks saying perhaps nobody approached Kumar's party for a tie-up knowing well JD(U)'s strength in Bihar.
Four Congress MLAs had voted for Kumar's government during the confidence vote in June last year after a split with the NDA.
With 118 MLAs of its own, JD(U) government runs on the support of four Congress MLAs, as many Independents and one CPI MLA in the 238-member Bihar Assembly.
Prasad, however, refused to comment when asked why Kumar and Paswan praised each other. "I will not comment on that." While the Bihar Chief Minister praised Paswan as a "very nice person", Paswan returned the encomium saying they have been "old friends" and that there has been no difference between them on personal matters.
Nitish Kumar walked out of NDA in June last year bringing to an end his party's 17 year-old ties with the BJP in protest against Narendra Modi's elevation as Prime Ministerial candidate and ever since there have been indications of a realignment of political forces in the state, where social engineering has churned out new permutations and combinations in the past.
Sources in LJP have said the party has opened its channel of communications with JD(U), which is also keen on a tie-up with Paswan's party.
In an interview to PTI, Paswan had said on Sunday that there are "two opinions" in his party with some leaders favouring an alliance with RJD and others with JD (U).
He at the same time had ruled out any strain with the RJD chief per se while maintaining that statements of some RJD leaders about seats created some unease in his party.
Asked about the issue of seats, the RJD chief downplayed the matter saying he or his party never said that they will not give this or that number of seats to Paswan's party and this can be discussed when Congress, RJD and LJP come together to sew up the alliance.
JD(U)-BJP combine had swept the last general elections in Bihar winning 32 of the 40 seats together. In 2004, Lok Sabha polls, Congress, RJD and LJP contested together and won 29 seats.
After the drubbing in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections in which Paswan even lost his seat from Hajipur, the LJP chief could enter Rajya Sabha only with the help of RJD votes, a fact which weighed heavily for the alliance during the 2010 assembly polls in which LJP had agreed to the projection of Prasad as Chief Ministerial face of the alliance. The alliance lost badly.
The heartburn in the LJP is also due to RJD "insisting" on certain seats.
Sensing that the growing rift between RJD and LJP could create trouble, a number of RJD leaders called on Paswan last month including RJD Bihar chief Abdul Bari Siddique and former Leader of Opposition in Bihar Legislative Council Ghulam Gous.
With RJD and LJP wooing the Congress aggresively and there being an apparent wedge between the two right now, it is a reversal of fortune for Congress, whose demand for a mere five Lok Sabha seats in Bihar was turned down in 2009.
It now seems to be holding the key in this troika grouping with Paswan despite his overtures to JD(U), maintaining that he will abide by the Congress decision in this matter.