AICC spokesperson Shakeel Ahmad made it clear on Sunday the Congress had not taken any stand till date on who was best suited to lead an anti-BJP, secular alliance, in the coming Bihar assembly poll due later this year.
“We have not yet entered into any kind of agreement with the JD (U) and the RJD for Bihar polls. The issue of chief ministerial candidate will be decided only after a decision on an alliance with the two parties”, said the AICC spokesperson.
“The Congress was free to chalk out its own course of action in case the coalition did not materialize taking into considerations issues that were dear to the party,” the AICC spokesperson said.
Ahmad’s ‘clarification’ came just three weeks after Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ashok Chaudhary had publicly stated chief minister Nitish Kumar was best suited to be CM face of an anti-BJP alliance for the coming assembly poll.
Talking to the media after an hour long meeting with Nitish Kumar late last month, the BPCC chief had said that since Lalu Prasad has legal obstacle none could be a better candidate for the post of CM than Nitish Kumar.
Ahmad’s statement on Sunday, widely seen as a Congress move to keep Kumar under pressure ahead of alliance negotiations, assumed added significance came as it did after an hour-long discussion he had with his senior colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad.
According to Congress sources, Azad, who recently visited Bihar and met hundreds of party workers, had already begun an in-depth seat by seat analysis to gear up for big time bargaining preceding the finalization of an alliance.
RJD supremo Lalu Prasad had recently okayed the candidature of Kumar as the chief minister to lead the coalition in Bihar after his meeting with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and JD (U) president Sharad Yadav.
It was widely perceived that Lalu, who had earlier expressed his reluctance to accept Kumar as CM face of the proposed alliance, ‘fell in line’ after Kumar’s meeting with AICC president Rahul Gandhi.
“This meeting sent out a message that Nitish and the Congress were ready to make common cause for the proposed anti-BJP alliance and if Lalu persisted in playing tough, he risked being alienated”, said a Congress leader.
Now that the Congress had secured an upper hand vis a vis Nitish, but facilitating his acceptance by Lalu as CM face, the Congress wanted to drive a hard bargain by way of a larger seat share in both - the July 7 council poll and the coming assembly poll.
“Ahmad’s non-committal stand on Nitish as leader appears to be geared to that objective”, said another Congress source.