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Field Priyanka against Vajpayee: Laloo

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, MARCH 22. The RJD president, Laloo Prasad Yadav, today urged the Congress to either field Priyanka Gandhi against the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, from Lucknow or to allow her to contest from Patna. "All she has to do is to file her nomination papers, I will ensure that she wins by a thumping majority," said Mr. Yadav. He also welcomed the entry of Rahul Gandhi into active politics.

The RJD chief's endorsement of the Gandhi siblings not withstanding, he continued to stand his ground on the question of the seat-sharing arrangement among secular parties in Bihar. He urged his allies to be realistic in their demands for seats, and hoped that the seat-sharing arrangement among secular parties would be in place before the last date of filing of nominations. "Defeating the NDA should be our top priority," said Mr. Yadav.

The RJD chief also advised his secular allies not to go by numbers alone, the main consideration, he said, should be on the winnability of the candidate. "Whoever among us wins, the seats will ultimately go into the secular kitty," he said. Mr. Yadav also assured the Congress that he was committed to supporting Sonia Gandhi at the Centre. "I have done it before and will do so again."

Mr. Yadav has held two rounds of talks with the AICC general secretary in charge of Bihar, R.K. Dhawan, to thrash out an agreement between the two parties. He also advised the party to go by his assessment of the ground realities in the State. "We have to devise the correct strategy to win in Bihar. The key to winning is to pick the right candidate so that we have the social combination in place," said Mr. Yadav.

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