statesman news service
NEW DELHI, 19 JUNE: The growing bonhomie between the Congress and the JD-U, which was today evidenced by the former’s support to the Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s trust vote in the state Assembly, is expected to be witnessed in Parliament in coming days.
Although the All India Congress Committee (AICC) today sought to play down questions about a new political alignment emerging between the Congress and the Nitish-led JD-U, it was evidently a bid to do a balancing act between Mr Kumar and its existing outside ally, the RJD chief Mr Lalu Prasad, an arch rival of the Bihar CM.
Keeping its options open with regard to joining hands with either of the two Bihar stalwarts for the 2014 general elections, the Congress leadership might keep them guessing down to the wire. At the Centre, however, the ruling Congress would be keenly eyeing the backing of the 20 JD-U MPs in the Lok Sabha and 9 JD-U MPs in the Rajya Sabha on various issues and crucial legislative business in coming sessions.
After the considerable depletion of the Congress-led UPA’s numbers in both Houses following the pullout of the Trinamul Congress and the DMK from the ruling coalition, the JD-U’s exit from the BJP-led NDA is set to create new support options for the Congress in its bid to push through its priority agenda in Parliament.
AICC spokesman P C Chacko was today, however, at pains to claim that the Congress has not struck any “quid pro quo deal” with the JD-U and that the support of four Congress MLAs to Mr Kumar during his trust vote was a “separate matter” and “not a prelude to a future alliance” between them.
In Patna, Mr Kumar echoed the same line while thanking the Congress for its support, and said not much should be read into it.
Mr Chacko said the Congress’s backing for Mr Kumar’s trust vote, which he won smoothly, was “unilateral and unconditional”. “We supported the JD-U in Bihar assembly because we do not want the communal BJP to succeed in its bid to pull down a government. It was to ensure the defeat of communal forces,” Mr Chacko said.
The AICC spokesman said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent description of Mr Kumar as a secular leader was meant for the Bihar CM as an individual and not for any party.
Asked whether the AICC perceived the JD-U as a “secular party”, Mr Chacko shied away from making a comment and remained non-committal.
On a possible alliance with the JD-U, Mr Chacko said: “Our leadership has constituted the A K Antony Committee to discuss the question of our alliances for the next Lok Sabha polls. This process has not been concluded. Finally, based on the Antony panel’s recommendations, our high command will take a decision on our alliance in Bihar and other places.” At the same time, the AICC declined to call Mr Prasad "communal” for the RJD’s vote against the Kumar government today. “Every political party has a right to take its own decision,” Mr Chacko said. “The RJD is our outside ally. There are no problems between us. But any future alliance will be discussed and decided later.”