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'We saved UPA government'

By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
Last updated on: May 23, 2005 13:33 IST
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"We had no option but to go with Lalu Prasad Yadav to save the central government," a Congress negotiator, who was part of the team that led to Sunday night's Cabinet decision recommending dissolution of the Bihar assembly, told

In a candid, off the record, conversation with, he said, "As soon as the news of a possible claim to form the government by (Janata Dal-United leader) Nitish Kumar came in, (CPI-M General Secretary) Prakash Karat and (CPI-M Poliburo member) Sitaram Yechuri insisted that the state assembly be dissolved."

The Congress leaders said Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and the Left parties ganged up against the Congress and Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party.

The Left and Lalu Yadav insisted on dissolving the state assembly, which has been in suspended animation since no party could form a government in Bihar after February's election.

Lalu Yadav and the Communists, the Congress leader added, knew that if a Nitish Kumar-led government came to power it would hit Lalu and the Left parties the most.

The Left parties swung into action more than anybody else, the Congress leader said, adding that Lalu Yadav intensified his lobbying with the Left to put pressure on Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The railway minister has had a good personal equation with the Communists for more than a decade.

Negotiations continued till 5 am on Sunday morning to avert the dissolution of the state assembly.

The Congress did not want to take blame for dissolving the Bihar assembly and wanted a UPA government to be formed before Nitish Kumar met Bihar Governor Buta Singh to stake his claim.

Time was running out, but Lalu Yadav refused to budge.

The Congress and Ram Vilas Paswan were on one side; Lalu Yadav and the Communists on the other.

Paswan was persuaded to agree to a Rashtriya Janata Dal Muslim leader as Bihar's chief minister.

The man chosen for the job was Jabir Hussain, the Rashtriya Janata Dal's leader in the Bihar legislative council. Sonia and Paswan agreed with the choice, but Lalu Yadav was unwilling to go along.

The Congress also tried to convince the Communists that an RJD-led government be formed before Nitish Kumar met Buta Singh.

But Lalu Yadav was unwilling to accept any other candidate but his wife Rabri Devi as chief minister. The Congress realised the negotiations had hit a roadblock and the dissolution of the state assembly remained the only option.

The CPI-M had only one demand to make to Sonia Gandhi: It wanted an early election in Bihar.

The CPI-M has secured a promise from the Congress leadership that Bihar will go to the polls in September or October, Congress sources told

Sonia Gandhi had no other option but to succumb to this pressure to save the UPA government, a Congress party insider told, adding that this decision would likely decimate his party and Paswan's party in Bihar.

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi