Congress President Sonia Gandhi called Lalu Yadav on Tuesday amid signs that Rashtriya leader Janata Dal (RJD) views her longtime ally as a dead weight in Bihar, especially as the secondary elections becoming a flashpoint between the parties.
Lalu Yadav, back in Bihar politics after three years in prison and hospitals, waved a giant red flag for the opposition alliance on Monday as he publicly denounced a congressional leader and questioned the good the alliance had done for his party.
The RJD and Congress are vying for the Assembly by-elections for two seats – Tarapur and Kusheshwar Asthan – on Saturday. This widened the rift between the allies.
Lalu Yadav was asked if the RJD’s alliance with Congress was over. “Kya hota hai Congress ka gathbandhan (what good is an alliance with Congress) “, slammed the former chief minister of Bihar.
Asked to comment on Congress leader Bhakt Charan Das saying the RJD was helping the BJP by turning its back on Congress, Lalu Yadav retorted: “Should we have parted with a seat for Congress to lose it and relinquish its deposit ? Bhakt Charan is a bhakchonhar (stupid person). “
Although the state’s congressional leaders are furious with the RJD leader, Sonia Gandhi is keen to smooth things over with one of the party’s oldest allies, sources say.
Sonia Gandhi and Lalu Yadav have always shared good relations; in 2004, when Congress came to power, the head of the RJD strongly supported Sonia Gandhi for the post of Prime Minister in the midst of a chorus against a Prime Minister of Italian origin.
Lalu Yadav’s unabashed impatience with his ally reflects the tension that arose last year when the dismal performance of Congress was seen as a drag on the opposition alliance despite the RJD having won the most seats in Bihar’s elections.
The Mahagatbandhan opposition not having obtained a majority, the BJP and Nitish Kumar returned to power. During autopsies, many allies blamed Congress, which won just 19 of 40 seats from it.
Significantly, Sonia Gandhi called Lalu Yadav shortly after a meeting of congressional heads of state, during which party issues in various states were reportedly discussed to the tune.
At the Congress meeting, Sonia Gandhi urged her party leaders to focus on discipline and unity “above personal ambitions”. She also commented on what she called “a lack of clarity and cohesion” among state-level leaders.