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With Lalu backing, Nitish will lead charge in Bihar

New Delhi/Patna, June 9 (IANS) After days of talks brokered by Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Janata Parivar finally announced on Monday that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will lead the assembly battle in Bihar with the support of foe-turned-friend Lalu Prasad.

Mulayam Singh made the much-awaited announcement in New Delhi where Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad declared that no one from his family was keen on being the chief ministerial candidate.

“It is the need of the hour that we all get united to stop the BJP,” Lalu Prasad, who cannot run for office due to his conviction in a corruption case, told the media.

“I assure secular powers… we are ready to make all sacrifices for this battle. I will drink poison but will defeat the communal forces,” said the former chief minister.

Mulayam Singh said: “I give special thanks to Lalu Prasad that he suggested Nitish Kumar’s name for the chief ministerial candidate.”

Janata Dal-United chief Sharad Yadav was present.

In Patna, Nitish Kumar affirmed his JD-U’s alliance with the RJD. He said the Congress too would be part of the alliance to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“There is no difference or any dispute with the RJD and Lalu Prasad over the alliance. The JD-U and the RJD along with the Congress will contest the elections together,” he said.

Nitish Kumar said his meeting with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday in New Delhi over seat-sharing was a positive one.

The BJP and its ally, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), dismissed the RJD-JD(U) alliance.

BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said his party was on a strong wicket in Bihar and didn’t care for Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad.

“An alliance that is not cohesive has been announced and is set to collapse,” he said.

Another BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad recalled that the RJD-JD(U) alliance was trounced in the Lok Sabha election. “They have joined hands in frustration, they will learn their lesson.”

LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan warned that the alliance was bound to break.

“Someone should ask Mulayam Singh, which party he heads? Who is he to announce the chief ministerial candidate? It is a drama,” said Paswan, who ditched Lalu Prasad and embraced the BJP before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Paswan claimed that the BJP-LJP combine would sweep Bihar in the election likely in September-October.

Until Monday’s announcement, there was intense speculation that Lalu Prasad was opposed to Nitish Kumar’s projection as the chief ministerial face.

But with the Congress and the NCP publicly favouring him, Mulayam Singh managed to persuade a reluctant Lalu Prasad to fall in line.

Monday’s decision will be followed by tough negotiations over who will contest how many of the 243 seats in Bihar.

Asked about it, Lalu Prasad said: “We will sort out any differences that emerge.”

According to the Bihar assembly website, the JD-U has 110 seats in the current house, followed by the BJP (86) and the RJD (24).

In 2004, the BJP-led alliance won 31 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar.

Congress sources said party leaders C.P. Joshi and Ghulam Nabi Azad were in talks with different parties in Bihar.

On Monday, the Congress said it was yet to decide its stand in Bihar. But spokesman Randeep Surjewala said: “We favour an alliance of anti-BJP parties.”

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