The Congress, which has been out of power in Bihar for the last two decades, is going all out to shake up its own moribund organisation in the State ahead of the Assembly elections slated for October-November this year.
Having decided bravely that it will contest alone in a State where it has just nine MLAs (in a 240-strong Assembly) and two MPs (out of the 40 in the State), it is now making up for lost time by parachuting a host of Central Ministers and party functionaries, and planning commemorative functions at every district headquarters on August 9 (Quit India Day) as part of its 125th anniversary celebrations.
All these activities, the party hopes, will galvanise workers for the public rally in Patna's historic Gandhi Maidan in August-end, to be addressed by party President Sonia Gandhi.
The Congres, sources said, has not finalised the date, but it has booked the maidan between August 21 to 25. Party general-secretary Rahul Gandhi is also expected to campaign extensively in Bihar, sources said.
For party general-secretary Mukul Wasnik — who was given charge of Bihar in early June, along with Mahboob Ali Qaiser who was appointed Bihar Pradesh Congress chief, thus ending months of slanging match between their predecessors, Jagdish Tytler and Anil Sharma — the last seven weeks have been a period of frenzied activity.
“In areas where the Congress was not taken note of, people are beginning to react,” Mr. Wasnik told TheHindu, adding that “now, even [Chief Minister] Nitish Kumar is beginning to react to us.'
He also stressed that he had told party workers to address the “aspirations of the people at the constituency-level, not make repeated trips to Delhi.” Mr. Wasnik said he hoped that the list of party candidates would be ready by early September. The Screening Committee, headed by general-secretary B.K. Hariprasad, was set up last week.
Apart from activating the party machinery, the Congress' efforts seem to be to focus on Central social welfare schemes, while focussing on corruption in the State, especially as the Patna High Court has recently ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigation into alleged financial irregularities, a decision the Bihar government has appealed against. The party hopes that in this way it might be able to dent Mr. Kumar's claims of development and good governance.
Mr. Wasnik also stressed that Mr. Kumar's allegations of stepmotherly treatment by the Centre was not borne out by the facts. “Nitishji,” he said, “should tell the people of Bihar that while the NDA [National Democratic Alliance] government at the Centre had made available Rs. 3,000 crore for rural development, the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] government provided Rs. 19,000 crore on this front in the last six years.”
Meanwhile on Sunday, the Bihar unit of the Congress got a lift with the former Excise Minister in the Nitish Kumar government, Jamshed Ashraf, joining the party along with the former Janata Dal (Secular) president and the former head of Nationalist Congress Party's Bihar unit. Mr. Ashraf, who was sacked from the State Cabinet and the party in June for raising the issue of the Rs.500-crore scam in the State Excise Department, said, “Nitish Kumar is vying with Lalu Prasad to break the record of corruption in the State.”