Tejashwi Yadav as Bihar CM face? Allies unsure
Trouble appears to be brewing in the mahagathbandhan, or grand alliance, in Bihar over its chief ministerial candidate for the assembly elections later this year.
The Congress has suggested a state-wide survey to identify the face of the alliance after some of its leaders voiced their opposition to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav’s name.
At a virtual meeting between former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Bihar Congress leaders, veteran Nikhil Kumar and legislative party leader Sadanand Singh expressed strong opposition to the move to project Tejwashwi as the CM face, according to people familiar with the development.
The RJD had projected 30-year-old Tejashwi as the chief ministerial candidate of the grand alliance last year. The announcement came after the RJD’s national council meeting passed a resolution in Patna on December 10, 2019.
The ruling Janata Dal (United)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine has already decided to fight the 2020 assembly polls under chief minister Nitish Kumar’s leadership. Elections are due in the 243-member Bihar assembly in October-November.
A Congress leader, who attended the meeting, said on the condition of anonymity that both Nikhil Kumar and Sadanand Singh argued that the move will further alienate upper castes who “despise RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and his son Tejashwi for their strong bias against forward castes”.
The Congress party’s Bihar in-charge, Shaktisinh Gohil, then suggested that a state-wide survey should be conducted, and insisted that the grand alliance should go by the popular choice, the leader said.
The issue has earlier been flagged by three constituents of the grouping — Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) leader and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief Upendra Kushwaha and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) president Mukesh Sahani. They have repeatedly been speaking publicly against the move to project Tejashwi as the CM face, saying the RJD took the decision unilaterally.
At its meeting on Friday, the Congress rejected suggestions to go it alone in the assembly elections with the leadership insisting that there is no time left for such a move.
“There was also a proposal to make the alliance broader by including the Left parties in it. Some leaders suggested that Congress, RJD and Left parties should come together and keep the other three parties – RLSP, HAM and VIP – out given that there is a big question mark on their ability to transfer votes to other constituents as seen in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” another leader said.
Gohil, however, said it is important for all constituents to keep aside their “egos and self interests” and put up a united fight based on ideological commitment.
He said the meeting also stressed the need for immediate settlement of seat-sharing and other issues among the alliance partners. “Talks on these issues should not stretch to the last minute, all parties should be flexible in their approach and the alliance should exhibit great political chemistry on the ground,” Gohil added.
Senior leader Kishore Kumar Jha said the Congress should deal with the RJD on “equal terms” as far as seat-sharing is concerned. “We should not agree to less than 100 seats this time. If other allies are to be accommodated, both RJD and Congress should share the burden,” he said.
At the meeting, another leader, Akhilesh Prasad Singh, claimed that Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan is in touch with him and that he is unhappy in the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
However, Bihar LJP leader Hula Pandey rejected the claim. “We have always seen that whoever we support goes on to form the government in Bihar. Since there is no one left to help Congress, they are thinking that if Ram Vilas ji goes with them, they can form the government. They (Congress) are just daydreaming,” he said.