"I did my best to work out an alliance with RJD and bring Congress on board, but the two parties wanted to drag seat- sharing talks over an indefinite period. That left me with no option but to clinch a pre-poll tie-up with the BJP-led NDA," he said.

Paswan said he had apprehensions that Congress and RJD wanted to delay seat-sharing talks beyond the announcement of the parliamentary poll schedule, which has been proved true.

"I was apprehensive that they (Congress and RJD) would offer us only a couple of seats at the last minute, which we would have been forced to accept as there would have been no other option for us... Accepting an offer of a couple of seats would have been insulting for us and humiliating to our party," he said.

Paswan had quit NDA 12 years back over the 2002 Gujarat riots.

He said that although he personally favoured an alliance with Congress and RJD, his party cadre were getting restive with the attitude of the two parties which were refusing to acknowledge even the existence of LJP.

It was the revolt brewing within Lok Janshakti Party over aligning with Congress and RJD on their terms that had tilted the scales in favour of an alliance with NDA, he said.

Paswan claimed that BJP initially wooed him with an offer of 12 seats but, in the end, his party agreed to the final offer of seven seats, including Hajipur (SC), from where he is to contest the Lok Sabha polls, and Jamui (SC), where his son Chirag would make his electoral debut.

Dismissing charges that he had done a "political somersault" by joining NDA for survival and to safeguard the political future of his son, Paswan said that had it been so, he would have accepted the offer to become the chief minister in 2005 after the Assembly polls in February of that year had thrown up a hung Assembly.

Praising BJP, Paswan said its national president Rajnath Singh has offered to apologise to Muslims for any wrong done to them. "What more can a leader or his party do to nourish its secular credentials?"

BJP leaders, including Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi swears by the Constitution and speaks for development as the sole agenda at his election meetings across the country.

"I have never compromised with secular ideology and continue to believe that India is a plural country where people of diverse background stay together," he said.

Paswan admitted that LJP's electoral fortunes had nosedived since quitting NDA in 2002 and joining UPA.

"Perhaps, I should never have left NDA," he said and expressed regret that he did not rejoin it earlier and remained with UPA for a decade during which his party was thrown into disarray.

"In our country, an era ends in 12 years and the same holds true in public life as far as I am concerned," he said adding, he had now made a new beginning by going with NDA to contest the general elections in the national interest and contribute to development process being promised by the Modi-led alliance.

"We are there to stay in the NDA for a long haul," he said in a reply to a question and said LJP, along with BJP and RLSP would contest the assembly polls in Bihar next year together to usher in a new era in state politics.

Paswan said he stood vindicated by his 'corrective action' in aligning with NDA as it has given a new lease of life to LJP and its workers ahead of the general elections.

Paswan said he would announce candidates for the seven parliamentary seats being contested by LJP in Bihar in a day or two before hitting the streets on campaign trail.


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