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13 MLAs announce split from Lalu Prasad’s RJD, five return within an hour

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad’s plans for a comeback as a major political player in Bihar in the national elections, due by May, have been dealt a severe blow with a split in his party. 13 of his 22 legislators have announced that they are quitting.

The rebels, led by the RJD’s chief whip in the Bihar assembly Rakesh Kumar, better known as Samrat Choudhary, met speaker Uday Narain Choudhary this afternoon. The Speaker immediately recognized the breakaway faction as a separate group, declaring them “unattached” from the RJD.

One of the rebels, Javed Ansari, said the group would support the ruling Janata Dal (United), which will firm up the position of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has 115 legislators in the 243-member House.

“Whatever we need to do to help Nitish we will, if we need to merge with his party, we will,” Mr. Ansari said.

The rebel RJD legislators are said to be among those who wanted ticket for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, but believed that they would not get them as Lalu Prasad would offer these seats to the Congress as part of an expected pre-poll alliance.

Most of them are likely, said sources, to be offered Lok Sabha tickets by the JD(U) or then be given important roles in the Bihar government. “The party has become a B-team of Congress, we don’t feel like working with them,” Mr. Ansari said.

“Have heard about it. It’s not true. I will find out,” said Lalu Prasad, also refuting speculation that longstanding partner Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party or LJP is looking to walk out on him.

Seat-sharing with the Congress has already put a huge question mark on Mr Prasad’s equation with Mr Paswan, who is said to be exploring rekindling his old ties with the BJP; he is reportedly worried that if the 40 Lok Sabha seats from Bihar have to be divided up between the Congress, RJD, Congress-ally Nationalist Congress Party and him, his party will get to contest very few.

In the 2010 assembly polls, the RJD was almost routed, managing to win only 22 seats in the 243-member assembly. The JD(U) had won 115 seats, and its alliance partner, the BJP, 91. The JD(U) parted ways with the BJP in June last year in protest against Narendra Modi’s elevation in his party.

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