At LJP foundation day, Paswan vents spleen at Lalu

Patna, Nov 28 (PTI) Lok Janshakti Party founder Ram Vilas Paswan on Thursday vented spleen at RJD chief Lalu Prasad, with whom he has shared a love-hate relationship for four decades.

Addressing a function organised here on the occasion of his party's foundation day, Paswan sought to post himself as a leader who never cheated on anybody and never held a personal grouse even in the face of political differences.

Prasad had severely mocked him ever since he walked back to the BJP-led NDA, which he had quit in protest against the Gujarat riots that took place when Narendra Modi was its Chief Minister. The RJD president had also tossed at him an epithet, 'weatherman', ahead of the 2015 Assembly polls in Bihar.

'Where I am today is because of my Karma. In 2005, my party had 29 MLAs and we held the key to power in Bihar. But I resisted all temptations and stuck to the position that I will support any combination that makes a Muslim the chief minister,' recalled Paswan.

The LJP patriarch was referring to the February 2005 polls in which his party had made a splash and was vehemently sought out by the NDA. The BJP-led grouping was short of majority and eager to oust the RJD-combine that had been ruling Bihar for 15 years from power.

The deadlock had led to the then Governor Buta Singh controversially dissolving the assembly and in the elections that were held again later that year, the NDA then only comprising BJP and JD(U) won a comfortable majority.

Paswan also claimed that it was because of his initiative that the RJD supremo, currently serving sentences in fodder scam cases, was able to clinch a seat-sharing deal with Sonia Gandhi, who has been his next door neighbour in the national capital for years.

'The alliance with the Congress and the LJP benefited RJD the most as it won 22 seats in 2004, many times more than it did five years earlier. Lalu lobbied hard for plum portfolios and people were surprised when he got railways as it was commonly believed that in view of my own past record, I will get the ministry,' said Paswan who was railway minister under Prime Ministers H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujaral.

'I have seen many ups and downs. We drew a blank in 2009. A year later, we won a handful of seats but our MLAs were poached by the RJD,' Paswan said in a faux pas.

He was corrected by party colleagues, who sought to remind the septuagenarian that the LJP was, indeed, an RJD ally in 2010 and it was Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U) to which the legislators had defected.

Paswan, whose sudden decision to dump the Congress-led UPA and join the NDA just ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls had taken all by surprise, conceded that he did so upon the suggestion of his son Chirag Paswan then a greenhorn.

'I was not in favour (of joining the NDA), but Chirag was. History has proven that he was right. This is the way it should happen. The older generation should give way to the younger ones,' the veteran leader remarked.

'But I have never held anything personally against anybody. My attitude towards Lalu ji has remained the same whether he has been in or out of jail.

'My son is maintaining the tradition and refusing to engage in a war of words with Tejashwi Yadav, calling him his younger brother and offering sane advice,' the Union minister said, spelling out the traits that have made him acceptable to whichever political formation he has chosen to align with. PTI NAC NN NN