The post of the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee president will not be filled for “some time” as a “divided” Bihar Congress wants to avert further defections, sources in the BPCC told The Sunday Guardian. The sources said the appointment will not be made till the Rajya Sabha elections and the MLC elections in the state are completed. It could be delayed even up to 2019, when the next Lok Sabha elections are due, depending on the developments. The sources further revealed that Madan Mohan Jha, whose name was earlier doing the rounds for the post along with that of Akhilesh Prasad Singh, is out of the fray as he is a close confidant of Ashok Choudhary, former BPCC president who quit the party along with three other MLCs on Wednesday. This leaves Singh as the only strong contender although there is a belief that acting president Kaukab Qadri may continue indefinitely, sources said.

 “Akhilesh Prasad Singh is a consummate leader and at a time when the Bihar Congress is riddled with factionalism, it needs a bold leader like him to steer the party in the right direction and inculcate a sense of discipline. But there is a lobby within the party which has been objecting to his appointment. They are the same legislators who are in touch with the NDA and are waiting for an opportunity to engineer a split. This is the reason the Congress is not filling the BPCC president’s post,” a source in the BPCC, who is also an AICC national coordinator, told this reporter.

 “The BPCC president will not be appointed till the RS elections and the MLC elections. The party leadership is afraid of a split. Whenever somebody new is given the charge, a lobby springs up against that person. We want to avoid that situation,” the source quoted said.

He said that there is a possibility that the Congress may opt to continue with Kaukab Qadri. “The party’s high command may decide to continue with Qadri indefinitely. That is another possibility. Qadri does not have a strong following within the party but, at the same time, he is also not somebody who has many enemies. He could be considered as a safe choice, but Akhilesh Prasad Singh is certainly the top contender,” he said. Apparently, former BPCC president Shakeel Ahmad is also lobbying for the job he had once helmed in Bihar. But leaders in the BPCC, who spoke to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity, said he had little chances. “His stint as the general secretary of Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi was not satisfactory. The party high command had received complaints regarding his style of functioning. In fact, he barely managed to secure a position in the newly formed steering committee of the party. In any case, his influence in Bihar is limited to Madhubani, from where he hails,” they said.

 When asked about impending defections in the Bihar Congress, another source said they are keeping a tab on legislators who want to cross over to the NDA. He added that the RJD-Congress is also trying to attract defectors from the BJP-JDU and are in talks with some senior leaders from the rival camp. “There are legislators in the NDA who want to join us (RJD-Congress) but the defection laws are preventing them. Similarly, some of our legislators who want to move out are also not able to do so owing to the same reason,” the source quoted said.

He said that Shyam Rajak and Uday Narayan Choudhary of the JDU may join the Congress-RJD alliance after the RS polls. 

“We have been in touch with Rajat and Uday Narayan for some time. They want to join us, but the defection law is acting as a hurdle,” he said.  The sources said that the media reports of as many as 14 Congress legislators being in touch with the BJP-JDU are “exaggerated”. “There is no truth in that. As per our knowledge, four to five legislators want to join the NDA. Of them, one or two are JDU people who had contested the Assembly elections in 2015 on a Congress ticket,” a source said. The Congress has 27 MLAs in the 243-member Bihar Assembly. 

The Bihar Congress witnessed a split on Wednesday when MLC Ashok Choudhary along with three other MLCs, Dilip Kumar Choudhary, Ram Chandra Bharti and Tanvir Akhtar, decided to join the ruling Janata Dal United of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The Congress had six MLCs in the state.