LJP goes soft on Modi, but says talks with Cong still on

LJP goes soft on Modi, but says talks with Cong still on

Amid heightened speculation on an alliance with BJP, LJP today appeared to be going soft on Narendra Modi with party chief Ramvilas Paswan's son saying that the Gujarat Chief Minister's alleged involvement in 2002 riots is not an issue after the clean chit given to him by the court.

"If the court has given its verdict and they say he (Modi) is clean, then I do not think it is an issue to talk about now," Chirag Paswan told reporters when asked about the riot taint on the BJP prime ministerial candidate.

The remarks of the leader, who heads the LJP Parliamentary Board, are significant as his father Ramvilas Paswan was the first minister to quit the NDA government over the post-Godhra riots.

However, another senior leader maintained that the possibility of an alliance with RJD and Congress is not yet over. To questions about LJP cosying up to BJP and whether LJP's alliance with Congress and RJD has broken up, Paswan said, "Yes I will agree to the fact that there has been a distrust in the party leaders because there is no clarity over alliance (with Congress and RJD). That's why very soon, we can have Parliamentary Board meeting in which we are going to decide what our future strategy is going to be."

Party Secretary General Abdul Khalik, however, told PTI, "It is not yet over. Talks are going on." He was asked the possibility of an alliance with Congress and RJD is over.

Khalik, who had been negotiating from the LJP side with Congress and RJD on seat sharing, said he is not involved in any alliance talks with BJP but parried questions on whether talks with the BJP are going on or not. Asked whether LJP's talks are continuing with BJP for alliance in Bihar, he merely said, "I am not involved in that."

"The party is feeling suffocated and cornered because negotiations (with Congress and RJD) in last three months have not yielded the desired result. LJP is getting an impression that it is not wanted in the alliance," he said.

Sources said that LJP leaders from Bihar are primarily involved in talks with BJP. BJP MP Shahnawaj Hussein had called on LJP a few days back while senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad had visited Paswan on January 14 on the day of Makar Sankranti.

Both the visits were downplayed by the BJP leaders then. A former LJP MP from Bihar, Surajbhan Singh, had yesterday said that the LJP will enter into an alliance with BJP and a formal announcement would be made very soon.

Ram Vilas Paswan had been a minister in both BJP-led NDA and Congress-led UPA-I governments while his party is currenty supporting UPA II from outside.

The sources in the party said that LJP had given a list of 10 seats it wanted to contest out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar to AICC general secretary in-charge for Bihar C P Joshi in January itself.

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