Giving a new twist to the prime ministerial race, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav on Tuesday said that Manmohan Singh as prime minister could not be taken for granted and United Progressive Alliance constituents will sit together after the elections to choose their nominee for the top post.
The Union Railway Minister, who all along has maintained that Manmohan Singh was the UPA candidate, today sang a different tune against the backdrop of his party RJD and the Congress going separate ways to fight the elections in Bihar.
"UPA is a confederation of secular parties and does not belong only to the Congress. We will sit together (after the elections are over) to chalk out a common minimum programme and in consultation with all our partners select a leader who will be the prime minister," Prasad told reporters.
"The UPA will form its government and there is no doubt about it. But, indeed, the people in the state Congress leadership misled Sonia Gandhi about their strength, as a result of which the party fielded candidates in so many places against us. These people will not be able to show their faces to the Congress president after the elections," he said.
Asked about the strained relations between the RJD-Lok Janshakti Party alliance in Bihar and the Congress, Prasad said, "These things are natural during elections. Do you expect us to worship each other?"
"There is a famine of candidates in the Congress, which is busy rebuilding and reviving its organisation. But despite the presence of Congress candidates in the fray in large numbers against nominees of secular parties, the National Democratic Alliance will be wiped out," he added.
Referring to state Congress president Anil Kumar Sharma's demand for an inquiry into his alleged role in shielding perpetrators of the Bhagalpur communal riots, Lalu shot back, "Those in the Congress leveling such unfounded allegations will land themselves in trouble. Was the Congress in power in the state in 1989 or I? Everybody knows it was the Congress."
"It was my government that booked the perpetrators and got them convicted," he said. The RJD president accused Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of setting up a judicial commission to probe the Bhagalpur riots only to ensure that NDA's prime ministerial candidate L K Advani's name as one of those who fanned communal tension at Bhagalpur was removed.
Asked why he had joined forces with Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, which had formed an alliance with Kalyan Singh, who was the Uttar Pradesh chief minister when the Babri mosque was demolished, Prasad said," Kalyan Singh is not part of the RJD-LJP-SP Fourth Front."
About his relationship with theLleft, the RJD leader said the Communist Party of India - Marxist backed the UPA government in time of distress, but there was no understanding between the Fourth Front and the Left parties at the moment.
On the Bihar Chief Minister's allegation that the RJD and Congress were deliberately confusing the voters, he shot back saying, "Nitish is himself confused....He is a fused bulb."