Uneasy peace in Bihar Congress as chorus for change of guard grows shriller

Nitish Kumar’s move of ditching the grand alliance and re-crowning himself as the chief minister by joining hands with the BJP has put the Congress in a vulnerable position.

india Updated: Aug 18, 2017 01:22 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bihar,Nitish Kumar,Congress
Ashok Chaudhary’s move of persuading the Congress high command to fight the 2015 assembly elections with JD-U leader Nitish Kumar as its face eventually forced RJD chief Lalu Prasad to fall in line and form the grand alliance against the BJP.(PTI File)

The Congress might have averted a split in its Bihar unit for the moment, but the chorus for the removal of Ashok Chaudhary as the state chief is only growing louder. Several senior leaders have urged the Congress high command to effect a change of guard to re-energise the party.

A two-member central team comprising Jyotiraditya Scindia and JP Agarwal rushed to Patna last week following reports that some legislators were planning to quit the Congress to join the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal-United (JD-U). The Congress has 27 legislators in the state’s 243-member assembly.

In the 2015 Bihar elections, the Congress had contested from 41 seats as part of the Mahagathbandhan or grand alliance. The JD-U and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) fielded candidates from 101 seats each.

However, Kumar’s move of ditching the grand alliance and re-crowning himself as the chief minister by joining hands with the BJP has put the Congress in a vulnerable position. Of the 41 Congress candidates in the 2015 polls, five had left the JD(U) to formally join the grand old party after filing their nomination papers. Three went on to emerge victorious.

The central team managed to convince the dissenters to stay put, but senior Congress functionaries fear that some “JD(U) imports” are still waiting for an opportune time to jump ship. “Though the JD(U) does not need them right now, considering that the coalition government is in a comfortable position, nobody knows what will happen in the future. These legislators are waiting to provide Nitish Kumar with a cushion when he needs it,” a senior Congress functionary said.

With senior leader Sharad Yadav breaking ranks with Kumar, the possibility of a split in the JD-U cannot be ruled out.

The Congress desperately needs to keep its house intact in the present situation, and Bihar leaders believe a change in guard would address the concerns of various sections in the party.

Chaudhary, once considered close to Kumar, was instrumental in persuading the Congress high command to fight the 2015 assembly elections with the JD-U leader as its face. It was a move that eventually forced RJD chief Lalu Prasad to fall in line and form the grand alliance against the BJP.

He later became a minister in the grand alliance government.

The Congress has been trying to zero in on a new Bihar unit chief for over two years now, only to falter because of the caste complexities in the state.

BLURB

Congress desperately needs to keep its house intact in present situation and Bihar leaders believe change in guard would address the concerns of various sections in party

First Published: Aug 17, 2017 16:08 IST