Call it irony. A party that ruled Bihar for decades until its ouster in 1990 now hardly finds a mention in the state’s political discourse during one of the most talked about assembly elections in recent times.
Though contesting 41 seats as part of the mahagathbandhan, or Grand Alliance, the Congress is piggybacking on Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Lalu Yadav’s RJD.
HT found Congress workers operating from RJD and JD(U) offices in several constituencies.
The party also finds itself lagging behind smaller, newly-formed outfits such as Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha.
“The Congress does not even figure in discussions,” admitted a party leader who attributed it primarily to the leadership’s failure to rebuild the organisation at the grassroots level over the past 25 years.
Political observers believe the “biggest mistake” committed by the Congress was to align with Lalu.
They say the move forced the upper castes and Dalits, until then its core vote bank, to look for other alternatives.
Senior Congress leader Kishore Kumar Jha lamented that no effort has been made to win back the support of the upper castes, Muslims and Dalits.
“The Congress gave five Brahmin chief ministers to Bihar. Brahmins are inclined towards the Congress but there is no serious effort from our side to woo them,” Jha said.
However, Congress leaders are hopeful of a reversal in the party’s political fortunes after the elections.
“The results will bring about a huge turnaround in Congress fortunes. We will definitely increase our tally, which in turn will strengthen our electoral politics,” Bihar Congress chief Ashok Chowdhary said.
The party won four seats in the 2010 polls and hopes to increase its tally three times this time.