At least 16 Bihar Congress MLAs out of the 27 it has, are set to join the JDU in the coming days. Multiple Patna-based party sources with whom The Sunday Guardian spoke to, said that a majority of the party MLAs were in touch with the JDU and the crossing over was inevitable.
This rebellion, which has been brewing ever since the Grand Alliance was ousted from power in the state, had led to the Congress high command summoning all party MLAs and senior state functionaries to Delhi this week during which they individually met party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
However, party leaders who met Rahul Gandhi told The Sunday Guardian that no assurance of any kind was given to them regarding either the removal or continuance of Ashok Choudhary as the state party president.
The removal of Ashok Choudhary as the state party chief was “the issue” that a major section of the state leaders were pushing for. According to the anti-Choudhary camp, it was he who was enticing the other party MLAs to cross over to JDU by offering them ministerial posts in the state Cabinet, something which they claimed was promised to Choudhary by the JDU.
However, party sources close to Ashok Choudhary, who will be completing five years as the state Congress chief in April next year, said that it was the anti-Choudhary group—supported by some Delhi based senior party leaders, who wanted to see him removed as the state party president—which was floating rumours that Choudhary was engineering a rebellion. Despite repeated attempts, Choudhary did not respond to calls and text messages sent by The Sunday Guardian seeking his version.
C.P. Joshi, Congress general secretary in-charge, Bihar, told The Sunday Guardian that the whole rebellion story was a “media creation. “The chapter is closed. After the changed political scenario in Bihar, the Congress high command individually met the elected party leaders to know the ground situation in Bihar. What transpired between them, I am not aware. There is no political crisis and it is just a media creation,” Joshi said.
However, both the camps, anti-Choudhary and pro-Choudhary, agreed that the bone of contention was the continuance of Choudhary, who was handpicked by Rahul Gandhi in April 2013, as the chief of state Congress.
“Choudhary has got the signature of 16 Congress MLAs who would be leaving the Congress and joining the JDU. However, we have managed to get back two MLAs as of now. Choudhary and other MLAs are being offered a place in the Cabinet and it was just a matter of time before the split happens. We apprehend that the Speaker of the Assembly, who is from the JDU, will follow JDU’s direction. Despite Choudhary not having the support of 2/3rd Congress MLAs required to bypass provisions of anti-defection law, for now, the Speaker will ‘sit’ on the matter, giving Choudhary enough time to take away more MLAs,” a senior party leader said.
Denying this, Congress leaders close to Choudhary said that certain Congress leaders who are against Choudhary were floating these “rumours” so that the party high command would be forced to replace him. “We know who these leaders are and why there are planting such stories. Two party leaders, including former Lok Sabha MP Akhilesh Prasad Singh and Congress legislature party leader Sadanand Singh who want to become the state Congress chief, are behind this whole drama,” a party leader said.
A senior Patna-based party functionary said that the replacement of Choudhary was the main issue. “For over 20 years now, Congress in Bihar has been working by taking directions from Lalu Yadav. Bihar Congress is on its dead bed, we need someone who is a ‘katar’ Congressi, who is not pro-Lalu, pro-Nitish Kumar, who is loyal to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and who is ready to come on the streets and has the capability to stand up to lathi charge, rather than run after posts and police security. Ashok Choudhary doesn’t have these traits. He is playing into the hands of Nitish Kumar who wants to increase his strength by weakening the Congress,” he said.
Party leaders who are against Choudhary have also blamed party in-charge C.P. Joshi for the current state of affairs of the party in the state. “He never presented the truth to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. He does not even know what is happening and what the issues of the party leaders are. He allowed this problem to fester,” the party leader said.
Commenting on the development, Prem Chandra Mishra, senior party leader and former vice president, told The Sunday Guardian that the party high command had been apprised of whatever was happening in Bihar.
“We have already met Rahul Gandhiji and told him about the situation. Whatever my personal view is on the matter, I have shared it with the high command. We cannot share that with the media. Whatever the party high command says, we will follow it. There are some leaders who feel that Ashok Choudhary has been there for over four years and they want him to be replaced. The party high command has been apprised of this sentiment too.”
Ajeet Sharma, senior Congress leader and party MLA from Bhagalpur, said that they told the party high command that the situation (loss of power in the state) would not have come if Tejashwi Yadav had resigned.
“The Congress leadership should have intervened and made him resign till the time he got a clean chit. But they did not do this. Now what should we tell the people when we go to them, when they say that you make and break alliances. I have nothing against Ashok Choudhary. It is true that his stipulated tenure is over and it is up to the party leadership whether they want to change him or not. He has worked hard since he became the party president and if he is changed, the new person should not have ego issues. He should take along party MLAs and functionaries and for at least 15 days, he should go outside Patna and stay in the districts,” he said.