The party hopes that launching its 2019 campaign in the state a year in advance will allow it to put its Bihar unit in order.

 

Close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will be in Champaran on 10 April to take part in the concluding ceremony of Champaran Satyagrah centenary celebrations, Congress is also eyeing to use the occasion to launch its 2019 Bihar campaign, sources in Bihar Congress revealed to The Sunday Guardian.

Sources said that the party will soon announce a date for a mega rally or road show from Champaran, an event they plan to use for cornering the Nitish Kumar-led government over the recent flaring up of communal tensions in the state. The party hopes that launching its 2019 campaign in the state a year in advance will allow it to put its Bihar unit in order, currently riddled with factionalism, and boost the flagging morale of its cadre.

“This is the right time to launch our 2019 campaign in the state. Following the communal flashpoints in Araria, Darbhanga and Bhagalpur, Nitish Kumar has found himself in an embarrassing situation. Some of his public statements hint at his unease with his ally BJP. Our campaign trail, in which we would question him on the communal incidents, will only increase the pressure on him to come clean,” a Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee source revealed to this reporter.

When asked about the Amantran yatra, bound to start Sunday, 8 April, another BPCC source said that it was an exercise that “cropped up in a hurry”. “We were planning a mega poll bugle from Champaran but following the appointment of Shaktisinh Gohil as Bihar in-charge, acting BPCC president Kaukab Qadri announced a four-district tour. It would have given a very wrong message if Shaktisinh didn’t turn up, so we are going ahead with it, but our focus is on the Champaran event,” the source said.

He said that Gohil would use the four-district tour in Patna, Sheohar, Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur to collect feedback from workers and voters and strategise the Champaran event. A date would be announced once Gohil returns to the capital on 11 April. Gohil being a farmers’ leader, the party is planning to woo the farmer community in a big way in the state.

Asked whether ally RJD would be a part of the Champaran campaign, the BPCC source said “it is an independent programme of the Congress”. The source added: “Alliance is going to be the key to Congress’ 2019 strategy in the entire country, including Bihar, but we also need to reinvigorate the party in the state,” alluding to keen seat-sharing negotiations expected in future.

On further questioning, the sources said: “We would definitely push for an even better seat-sharing deal than what we got in the 2015 Assembly elections, considering that the JDU is no longer an ally.”

The Congress had been spared 41 of the 243 Assembly seats in Bihar in 2015 by RJD and JDU, who fought on 101 seats each. The Congress’ share was seen by many as “unduly generous”.

The sources confirmed that the high command is weighing possibilities of attracting more allies in Bihar along with RJD, but refused to comment if they have initiated talks with Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party or Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party, who are currently in NDA. “We are definitely looking forward to getting more like-minded allies on board in Bihar. But it would be premature to reveal who we have been talking to,” the sources quoted said.

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