Instead of closing ranks for the Bihar assembly polls, barely six months away, cracks appear to be deepening in the state unit of the Congress.
Unless the leadership intervenes, the events in Patna over the past fortnight could undo the unity that Rahul Gandhi’s visit had brought in the party last month.
AICC general secretary in-charge of Bihar Jagdish Tytler and state Congress chief Anil Sharma are at loggerheads; a dissident group that includes former MP Ranjeeta Ranjan is in a face-off with Sharma whose ouster it wants; and the upper caste lobby is fighting the move to induct or give primacy to controversial Yadav leaders like Pappu Yadav, Ranjan’s husband, or Sadhu Yadav.
A number of state leaders are particularly upset at posters of Sonia Gandhi with Pappu.
“Will the Congress go for the Rahul Gandhi brand of politics or for the Pappu brand,” state leaders are asking. Rahul, they recall, had come down heavily on criminalisation of politics.
On March 3, the dissident group met to demand Sharma’s ouster and Pappu’s induction. Though invited, Tytler did not go.
On March 5, the state unit met to present a united face. But the conclave showed up fissures instead, as leaders levelled charges against each other.
In an allusion to her husband, Ranjeeta charged that if leaders with a mass base were kept out, the party may not be able to strengthen its social base.
This led to an uproar. Tytler found it difficult to control the situation as Sharma tried to list his achievements amid the confusion.
The situation aggravated further on March 9 when Sadhu opposed the women’s reservation bill and said he was ready to quit the party over the issue. The state unit suspended him, but within 24 hours, Tytler revoked it, leading to a fresh battle within the ranks.
“There is goodwill for the party. The upper castes, Muslims and Dalits are coming to us. But the party is divided. First, Sharma was targeted, allegedly for not being effective. Tytler was sent to bring peace and give the party a momentum. But he is beginning to be seen as a factional leader himself ,’’ said a state leader who did not want to be quoted.