Monday, Dec 18, 2017 | Last Update : 04:57 AM IST
Sources said former Lok Sabha MP Akhilesh Prasad Singh is one of the front-runners for the post.
Patna: Ashok Chaudhary’s unceremonious removal as Bihar Congress chief has created a sharp division within the state unit. A faction believes that “his removal at this stage may harm the party’s image in Bihar”.
Party leaders said that a hunt for a new state unit chief at this stage may damage the party’s preparations for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Several party leaders also claimed that during the 2015 state Assembly elections it was Mr Chaudhary who, despite various hurdles and internal fighting energised the grand old party, managed to win 27 seats.
According to Mr Chaudhary, “There were only 4 MLAs in the state Assembly when I took over as Bihar PCC president four years ago but today the party has 27 legislators. The Congress leadership at the centre should consider me as a successful state president of Bihar.”
Mr Chaudhary was removed as the chief of the Bihar Congress last week by party president Sonia Gandhi. The party after announcing his removal appointed state vice president Kaukab Quadri as the working president. Sources said former Lok Sabha MP Akhilesh Prasad Singh is one of the front-runners for the post. Another name which is likely to be considered for the post is that of Lok Sabha MP from Madhepura Ranjeeta Ranjan.
A week before his removal, Mr Chaudhary had blamed the central leadership for conspiring against him. He had also consistently expressed dissatisfaction over the way senior party leaders blamed him after the grand secular alliance government collapsed in Bihar. After the high command in New Delhi announced his removal, Mr Chaudhary raised questions on the decision and said that his “unceremonious ouster” also indicates party’s non-seriousness about Dalits.
“Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi talks about Dalits but in Bihar one of his Dalit party leaders was humiliated and insulted on the advice of few central leaders. I didn’t expect such treatment from my own party leaders as I worked hard for the party in Bihar,” Mr Chaudhary said.
He also blamed AICC general secretary C.P. Joshi for misleading the high command about the party’s affair in the state.
“Being a committed Congress worker, I expected an honourable exit from the party. My own senior leaders humiliated me,” said Mr Chaudhary.
Though Mr Chaudhary didn’t reveal his future plans, he said that he will continue to “wage jihad” against senior party leaders who have been trying to mislead the high command for their own benefits.
“I have not decided to leave the party but I cannot accept the humiliation I got from my own senior leaders,” Mr Chaudhary said.
Sources claim that Mr Chaudhary might take a final decision on leaving the party after meeting the high command.
Sources said it was Mr Chaudhary’s perceived growing warmth with JD(U) chief and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar that cost him the job of state Congress chief. They said Mr Chaudhary allegedly ran a signature campaign with the objective of splitting the Congress in Bihar but he couldn’t garner enough support to defy the anti-defection law.
Though he has repeatedly denied the allegation, insiders claimed that as many as 14 legislators had decided to float a new group after leaving the party. But as per the anti-defection law, a total of 18 legislators are required to break away from the 27-member Congress to avoid being disqualified from the Assembly.
Party leaders said that the Congress high command initiated action against Mr Chaudhary after several legislators during their one-on-one discussion with Mr Gandhi gave an indication that a sizeable number of legislators were planning to oppose its alliance with RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Some legislators also urged Mr Gandhi to snap ties with Lalu Yadav as he is facing a string of corruption charges.
The Congress first sensed trouble within the state unit after a faction led by Mr Chaudhary decided not to show up for Lalu Yadav’s “BJP Hatao Desh Bachao Rally” in August.
The rally was, however, attended by senior national Congress leaders such as the leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and party general secretary C.P. Joshi.
A section of the Congress had also conveyed to Jyotiratidya Scindia, a special observer sent to Bihar by the central leaders to Patna last month, that the party should focus on strengthening its base instead of playing second fiddle to RJD which is losing ground in Bihar due to corruption charges.
The fear of rebellion intensified after the JD (U) openly invited Congress legislators to join the party. Senior JD (U) leaders had claimed that Congress legislators were worried about their political future after the grand secular alliance collapsed in Bihar and offered them a place in the ruling JD(U).
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