The months-long feud between Bihar Congress president Anil Sharma and party in-charge Jagdish Tytler ended on Wednesday with their removal from respective posts.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi appointed Mehboob Ali Kaiser as the PCC chief and handed over the charge of party affairs in Bihar to Union minister Mukul Wasnik, bringing in a Muslim-Dalit combination to the state going to polls later this year.
For its revival in the state after more than two decades, the party — it last ruled Bihar in 1989 — is banking on the support of different social groups, which had shifted their allegiance to others over the years.
While its traditional vote base of upper castes such as Brahmins and Thakurs had shifted to the BJP, Muslims, some backward castes and Dalits moved away to the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Lok Janshakti Party. The party is now making desperate attempts to bring back them to its fold and the fresh appointments are part of such efforts.
The Congress high command had also taken note of the fact that Tytler-Sharma turf war was affecting its chances to make some gains in the coming assembly elections. A few days ago, the faction-ridden state unit had plunged into crisis after several functionaries submitted their resignation en masse to Gandhi in protest against the appointment of non-Congressmen in the newly constituted pradesh executive committee.
In Patna, a visibly shocked Sharma said it was a “good idea” to sack him. However, he was quick to claim that during his 22-month tenure he had brought the Congress back to the mainstream of Bihar politics by increasing its vote share from 4 to 15 per cent.
Both Wasnik, a party general secretary known for his organisational skills and Kaiser, a three-time legislator with a no-nonsense approach, have tough task ahead — to restore unity in the faction-ridden party in Bihar barely four months ahead of the elections.
But Kaiser sounded positive. “Congressmen will have to sink their differences if the party is to present itself as a viable political alternative to the ruling NDA in Bihar,” he said in Patna.
(With inputs from Patna)