PATNA: RJD chief Lalu Prasad has given a jolt to the Congress party by deciding not to share the dais with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in a major pre election rally at West Champaran district on September 19. He would be represented by his son Tejashwi Yadav, instead. Lalu cited his “busy schedule” as the reason to skip the major political rally.
The Congress vice-president will share the stage with a host of senior leaders of the Grand Alliance. “Nitish Kumar will attend the rally with Rahul Gandhi. That is certain. RJD will decide who is going from their party,” said JD (U) spokesperson KC Tyagi. The Congress has recently developed a warm relationship with JD(U) in Bihar. The party had proposed the name of Nitish Kumar as the chief ministerial candidate ahead of the Grand Alliance formally deciding on it.
Understanding fully well that it would lose face if Lalu were to stay away from the first rally organised by the Congress to kick start its campaign in Bihar, party leaders have begun efforts to mollify the RJD chief. Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee president Ashok Choudhary personally visited Lalu here on Sunday and requested him to reconsider his decision.
“I am hopeful that Lalu-ji will attend the rally,” Choudhary told the media after his meeting with RJD chief. RJD’s spokesperson, in turn, went nearly sore trying to defend his boss, explaining that he had “no problems’’ sharing the stage with Rahul. But, sources said, the Congress is worried about how the voters will react.
Earlier, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had expressed his reservation about sharing the dais with Congress party leaders during the Swabhiman rally in Patna on August 30. But at the time, Lalu Prasad shared the stage with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. His beef with Rahul stems from Congress scion’s strong opposition to a move by the erstwhle United Progressive Alliance (UPA-II) government to bring an ordinance to protect convicted lawmakers from disqualification in September 2013. The ordinance appeared largely to bail out Lalu who had been convicted in the multi-crore fodder scam. But the government ditched the ordinance after pressure from Rahul, and Lalu was debarred from contesting any election.
Though Congress has only 5 MLAs in the Assembly, it has got 40 tickets in the seat-sharing arrangement of the Alliance, while the JD(U) and RJD are contesting on 100 seats each.