The Congress, on the downhill in Bihar since 1989, got an opportunity to secure tangible gain at the recent Maharajganj bypoll, for which it fielded Jitendra Swami, the son of RJD MP Umashankar Singh, whose death caused the election.
But it got just around 30,000 votes. The Congress had ridden the RJD bandwagon for nine years — from 2000 to 2009 – but got sucked into caste calculations and was left without any visible support. The absence of action on the ground meant that it also lost goodwill.
Now the party has to choose whether it wants to stand alone, ally again with the Lalu Prasad-led RJD or look for a not-too-flattering alternative — being a very junior partner in a JD(U)-led front, and slowly regain the acceptance of the castes that support Nitish Kumar’s party.
History would suggest the RJD as a choice since overtly Muslim-centric politics is a plank the Congress shares with Prasad.
Also, Prasad is still a supporter of the Manmohan Singh government and his party’s victory in the Maharajganj poll makes it difficult to ignore him.
While Congressmen, wish to have an alliance with the JD(U) in Bihar, the JD(U) too would keep its options open with the Nalanda University project and the Planning Commission allotment of Rs 12,000 crore more to Bihar on Kumar’s insistence.