NEW DELHI: Congress is "not a factor" in Assembly polls in Bihar as the situation in the state is vastly different from that in Uttar Pradesh, which had seen the revival of the ruling party at the Centre, JD(U) chief Mr Sharad Yadav claimed on Wednesday.
Mr Yadav, who is also the NDA convenor, was upbeat over the prospects of the JD(U)-BJP alliance, which was shaken by the recent row between Bihar Chief Mr Nitish Kumar and his Gujarat counterpart Mr Narendra Modi over flood relief advertisements.
He said the RJD-LJP combine was its main rival in Bihar. "Congress is not a factor in Bihar. The situation in Bihar is vastly different from that in Uttar Pradesh. Our contest will be with the RJD-LJP combine," Yadav said in an interview
He was responding to questions on whether he feels there could be a resurgence of Congress in Bihar, which, after breaking off from RJD, has decided to go solo in the elections there.
Mr Yadav exuded confidence that the JD(U)-BJP government led by Mr Nitish Kumar will come to power after the elections because "the government has fulfilled most of the promises it made to the people and brought about considerable change in the law and order situation and on the development
When pointed out that the RJD-LJP combine bagged eight seats in by-elections for 18 Assembly seats in the state in September last year while JD(U) could get only three and BJP just two seats, Mr Yadav said, "There is a huge difference in general election and by-elections."
"We lost in the by-elections because of wrong selection of candidates. It was not because RJD and LJP emerged stronger. We will ensure that the mistakes in ticket distribution are not repeated this time," he said.
The elections were seen as a mini-referendum for the Nitish Kumar government ahead of the state Assembly polls.
RJD, which ruled Bihar for 15 consecutive years from 1990, was defeated in the 2005 Assembly elections by BJP and JDU.
In the 243-member Bihar Assembly, RJD is the second largest party with 56 seats. The ruling parties JDU and BJP have 81 and 54 seats respectively. Ramvilas Paswan-led LJP has 12 seats and Congress 10.
Asked whether he sees a possibility of Lalu Prasad coming back to power with the support of Mr Paswan’s party, Mr Yadav said, "People know Lalu. They have seen his rule."
Mr Yadav also dismissed suggestions that the recent row between the alliance partners in Bihar could have an impact on the voting pattern in the state.
"This will not impact on votes. This is the desire of the people of Bihar that this alliance should continue. The incident that happened was unfortunate but, at the same time, it underlined the necessity of the alliance," Mr Yadav said.
Asked about Congress’ remark that the NDA has become a "Naturally Dissolving Alliance", Mr Yadav shot back saying, "In UPA, Congress has just three allies DMK, NCP and Trinamool Congress and they too differ on a number of issues."
The JD(U) chief said no caste carnage or communal riot took place in the state in the last five years and there was a check on goondaism, which had become a "hallmark" of the state during previous governments.
To a question on whether Bihar government’s earlier move to bring Bataidari (sharecropper) Bill, which was later withdrawn, alienated the land owning classes in the state, Mr Yadav said, "An issue is unnecessarily being made out of it, when there is no such move."
Mr Yadav also sounded confident of getting upper caste votes, saying the government has worked for all and has done nothing, which could antagonise any caste or community.
He expressed confidence that voters from Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs) and Mahadalits will vote overwhelmingly for the JDU-BJP combine in Bihar as "the state government has given them representation in Panchayat elections and initiated a number of welfare measures for them."
The RJD chief had earlier ridiculed Kumar’s talks of empowerment of EBCs and Mahadalits, saying that the Bihar government has only made lofty promises to them and did nothing for their uplift.
Voters of these classes will teach him a lesson in the Assembly polls, he had said.