Amid blame game, Congress MLAs in Bihar authorise high command to nominate CLP leader

Amid an ongoing blame game for the party’s humiliating performance in the Bihar assembly election, newly elected Congress legislators on Friday passed a resolution authorising the party high command to select the legislature party leader.

The MLAs met for the first time in the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee (BPCC) headquarter—Sadaquat Ashram—in presence of chairman of the screening committee for selection of candidates for Bihar elections Avinash Pande and Chattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel.

“It is a formality to hold the meeting of newly elected leaders and seek their views about the election of their leader in the assembly in presence of the central leaders. As AICC in-charge for Bihar Shaktisinh Gohil is sick, Pande has been authorised to hold the meeting. Baghel has been appointed as the AICC observer,” said a senior functionary of the BPCC.

BPCC spokesman Harkhu Jha said that all the leaders unanimously passed a resolution, authorising the high command to elect the legislature party leader in the assembly. “Later, Pandey and Baghel held one-to-one discussion with the newly elected leaders and sought to know their idea to bolster the party’s image in the assembly as well as in the state,” Jha said.

The central leaders’ visit to Patna acquires considerable significance, as internal dissension over the party’s abysmal electoral performance, which saw only 19 out of 70 candidates winning, has spilled over into the Grand Alliance. Leaders of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which emerged as the single largest party but stopped sort of returning to power for want of majority, also blamed the Congress for the Grand Alliance’s debacle.

Former chief minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S) leader Jitan Ram Manjhi’s appeal to the Congress support the incumbent chief minister Nitish Kumar also led to the speculations of a crack among the newly elected legislators. HAM-S fought the elections under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) banner and won four seats.

The Congress spokesman dismissed any apprehension of a crack in the legislature party.”Manjhi has lost his credibility and trust as he has switched his loyalty many times after deserting the Congress,” he said.

Internal squabbling in the Congress also came to the fore on Friday as supporters of senior leader Vijay Shankar Dubey and Siddharth (both MLAs) resorted to pushing and shoving over their choice of a legislature party leader. The situation was, however, brought under control with the intervention of senior leaders. As many as 17 out of 19 newly elected leaders were present in the meeting. Maharajganj MLA Vijay Shankar Dubey, Rajesh Ram and Shakeel Khan are said to be in the race for the post of the CLP leader.

Meanwhile, the clamour for fixing accountability for crushing defeat of the party got louder with a section of party leaders gunning for BPCC chief Madan Mohan Jha and BPCC campaign committee chairman Akhilesh Prasad Singh. Singh, however, blamed the Central leaders, alleging that they had hijacked the campaign and refrained from involving the local leaders in the electioneering.

The other sections, however, accused Singh of indulging in managing tickets to the leaders, who were unfamiliar with the party cadres of the area they contested, with leaders of the AICC involved in the process. “Leaders like Prem Chandra Mishra, who is one of the prominent faces of the party, was not allowed to campaign anywhere during the election. AICC general secretary Tariq Anwar and former Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahai were roped in the electioneering on a few seats, while Akhilesh Prasad Singh along with AICC secretaries Ajay Kapoor and Virendra Rathore conducted a whirlwind tour across the state,” said a leader, wishing anonymity.

AICC member Kishore Kumar Jha alleged that Madan Mohan Jha turned helpless as Singh along with AICC leaders prevailed over him in all crucial decisions, from selection of seats and candidates to the campaigning. “They chose candidates who had little connection with ground reality. Tickets were distributed on the basis of favouritism and other considerations, while bona fide candidates were completely marginalised. There was no logic behind contesting the seats that are considered pocket boroughs of the NDA, especially when the party failed to rebuild the organisation at the grassroots level over the last four years,” said the AICC member.

He also said that relying on the team which had utterly failed in the last Lok Sabha election was another fault that brought embarrassment to the party.

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