Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at an election rally in Bihar’s Darbhanga last month.(PTI)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at an election rally in Bihar’s Darbhanga last month.(PTI)

Rahul Gandhi was picnicking while PM Modi focused on Bihar polls: RJD’s Shivanand Tiwary

Rashtriya Janata Dal national vice president Shivanand Tiwary also accused the Congress of being a ‘non-serious player’.
By Anirban Guha Roy| Edited by Sabir Hussain | Hindustan Times, Patna
UPDATED ON NOV 16, 2020 12:27 AM IST

In the first open attack against the Congress for its poor show in the Bihar assembly polls, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) national vice president Shivanand Tiwary on Sunday took aim at Rahul Gandhi for vacationing in Shimla amid the electoral battle even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a dozen rallies.

Tiwary, an outspoken leader, also slammed the Congress as “a non-serious player”.

Rahul Gandhi addressed only eight rallies throughout the three-week long poll campaign for the three-phase election, which ended on November 7.

The Congress won only 19 seats out of 70 seats it contested. It has led to heartburn in the RJD-led Grand Alliance (GA) that the coalition lost out to the ruling NDA by a slender margin to reach the majority figure of 122 MLAs because of the grand old party’s low strike rate in winning seats.

“Rahul Gandhi is much younger than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But Modi addressed more rallies than Gandhi. The Congress took as many as 70 seats in seat sharing but did not do 70 rallies. The party’s effort in the polls matching the number of seats it contested was totally lacking in Bihar this time. Gandhi was picnicking at his sister’s place in Shimla when elections were on. Is this the way a party is run? The Congress’s non-serious approach in running the party only gives room for making allegations that the national party is only helping the BJP,” he said.

He also took potshots at the Congress leader for the party’s poor show in Uttar Pradesh assembly election in 2017 when Gandhi in alliance with Samajwadi Party( SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav had managed to win 54 seats out of 403 seats.

The senior leader maintained the Congress top leadership was not adapting to changes or listening to even senior leaders for organisational overhaul highlighting how 23 senior party leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tiwari had written to the party president Sonia Gandhi for bringing in sweeping changes. “But what happened? Nothing. There was no change in Congress’ way of functioning,” he said.

Tiwary, who is former Rajya Sabha MP and former minister, also was unsparing about his attack against Priyanka Gandhi saying her focus in Uttar Pradesh as AICC general secretary has not cut much ice. “In the bye-election in four seats in UP recently, Congress candidates lost their deposits in four seats out of seven seats where polls were held. So how has Priyanka been able to shore up the party’s sagging poll fortunes in UP?” he asked.

Despite his scathing criticism, Tiwary asserted his utterances against the Congress should not be perceived as that of a RJD national vice president’s alone but also as that of a senior politician of the state who has spent 50 years in politics for social justice, democratic values and civil rights.

“We want the Congress to get stronger. Today, democracy is in danger especially the way civil liberties are being curbed and democratic voices are being suppressed in the country under the BJP rule. But I feel the Congress is not making any concerted effort in this direction. As a party, Congress must learn from the BJP of being accommodative towards allies like re-electing chief minister Nitish Kumar to the top post despite JD(U) winning only 43 seats and bringing on board smaller allies like VIP and HAM,” he said.

He also said that even Bihar Congress leaders are now acknowledging there were big mistakes in candidate selection. “Congress leaders today staged dharna. A section of party leaders are now admitting it was wrong selection and faulty campaign that led to the party’s poor show,” Tiwary said.

The RJD had been muted so far in blaming the Congress for the GA’s failure to reach the halfway mark with leader of the opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav saying all allies have worked collectively. But the CPI-ML (liberation), a major Left party in the state which won 12 seats as GA partner this time, has already put the Congress in the dock for the alliance’s debacle.

“Congress had a low strike rate and it appears the party did not choose its candidates and carried the poll campaign as desired. The Congress must review its shortcomings,” said CPI ML general secretary Dipankar Bhattarcharya recently.

The signs of internal wrangling in the GA are coming to the fore and the relations between RJD and Congress could now come under increasing strain.

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