Bihar Assembly elections | Result crucial to Congress revival

The Congress may be the junior partner in the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-led alliance in Bihar but its performance in the Hindi heartland State could play an important role in the party’s revival plan.

Amidst a renewed call for Rahul Gandhi to take over as the Congress chief once again, the election could well be a litmus test for Mr. Gandhi, the principal campaigner for his party.

It could also set the tone for the party’s campaign for the next round of Assembly elections, expected around April-May next year, in crucial States such as West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

“These elections come at a time of churn within the Congress. The party plans to have a full-time president next year and if it does well and improves on its previous tally, Mr. Gandhi may become the natural unanimous choice. But if that’s not the case, then there will be challenge as senior leaders had recently written about the leadership question,” said Professor Sri Prakash Singh, Department of Politics, Delhi University.

In the 2015 Assembly elections, the Congress had its best performance in nearly two decades. Of the 41 seats it contested as part of the grand alliance between the RJD and Nitish Kumar Janata Dal-United (JD-U), the party won 27 seats.

The unexpected results were meant to be a trigger to revive the party in the Hindi heartland where it had lost out to leaders such as Lalu Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan — all products of JP [Jayaprakash Narayan] movement — and their brand of politics at social re-engineering.

But far from it, the then Bihar Congress chief, Ashok Choudhury, switched sides when JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar joined the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) by parting ways with the RJD and the Congress.

Dependent on alliance

“The party at the State level as well as the central level only relies on alliances. Congress workers mostly carry on with routine political activity and become visible only during the elections,” said K.K. Jha, a member of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) from Bihar.

“There were so many issues. From 15 years of anti-incumbency to the collapse of the health and education system, the Congress should have emerged as the main voice of the people. Nearly 200 children died from encephalitis in Muzaffarpur but we could not hold the government accountable. Since it has become a habit of sorts to depend on alliances, our State leaders failed to raise issues strongly,” Mr. Jha added.

No voter base

In these elections, of the 243 Assembly seats, the Congress has fielded candidates in 70 constituencies. But the party can hardly boast of a strong organisation on the ground or winnable candidates.

“While the RJD has its Yadav and Muslim voter base intact, the Congress does not have a voter base or an organisation on the ground. And they have also not been able to reach out to any particular group like the Brahmins and Dalits, who used to be their traditional voters,” Professor Singh said.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 12:31:07 PM |

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