Congress likely to make top level party changes in Bihar

Thursday, November 25, 2010

NEW DELHI - Having received a severe drubbing in the Bihar assembly polls that halved its existing single-digit strength, the Congress is likely to revamp the top level of its state unit, sources said.

They said the changes were expected to be made before the party plenary next month.

The Congress won only four seats in the 243-member assembly - less than half of the nine the party had won last time. Both the party’s state unit chief Mehboob Ali Kaiser and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader in the outgoing house Ashok Kumar lost their seats.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi campaigned extensively in the state addressing about 22 rallies in the six-phase elections, while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi also addressed election meetings.

Though the Congress leaders had scaled down their expectations in the polls from 50 seats initially to 20-30, they had not reckoned with a near wash-out.

A senior party leader, who has been associated with the party’s campaign in the state, said that the party lacked in the state leaders with wide influence.

There is hardly a party leader in the state who commands influence beyond his own constituency, the leader told IANS.

He rejected the criticism that wrong selection of candidates was a key reason for the debacle.

“Nobody can say that all the tickets given were wrong. Even if one assumes that one half of the tickets were wrong, the tally still should have been 20-25 seats from among those who deserved the ticket,” he said.

The leader, who remained mostly in Bihar during the election period, said that the major drawback in the party’s campaign was organisational weakness.

“The party organisation has been weak for almost two decades. There are constituencies which had not seen a Congress flag for the past many years…the party had been riding on the shoulders of (Lalu Prasad-led) Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) for almost a decade, he said.

The leader said that rallies of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi attracted crowds but the party lacked the machinery to convert the support into votes.

The Congress has also been coping with the problem of factionalism in Bihar and had to replace Anil Sharma as state party chief and Jagdish Tytler as general secretary in charge of the state in June this year. Kaiser and union minister Mukul Wasnik were respectively made state unit chief and incharge of the state to curb infighting.

The party’s youth Congress chief Lallan Kumar, who was selected as part of democratic elections initiated by Rahul Gandhi, had to face arrest along with some other Congress leaders in the run-up to the polls after allegedly being found with unaccounted currency notes.

The party had sought to revive its Brahmin-Muslim-Dalit caste base in the state but its leaders said the effort did not yield result due to the Nitish factor.

Party leaders said that a detailed post-mortem examination of the election result will be conducted and the report will be given to party president Sonia Gandhi.

Gandhi admitted Wednesday that the party had to start from a scratch in the state and rebuild itself.

She said the party did not have much hope in the state and added that it took a deliberate decision not to work in alliance with other parties.

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