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AICC brass now faces poaching plots in Bihar


NEW DELHI: Congress’ poor show in the Bihar polls has triggered internal warnings that many of its 19 leaders who have been elected may have come under the poaching radar of BJP and JDU, even as the party faces the by now-familiar post-debacle spats.

The AICC, reeling under the baggage of the electoral reversal, appears groping in the dark on how to avert a possible desertion and is considering dispatching representatives to Patna or inviting MLAs to Delhi for a meeting after chhath puja, according to a senior functionary.

“We are aware that both BJP and JDU are working to poach some of our MLAs. There are some internal issues. After chhath (November 21), may be somebody will be sent to Patna or a meeting of our MLAs would be arranged here,” the leader said. “We have to work out the schedule keeping in mind the schedule of first session of the new assembly.”

Sources said some senior Congress leaders here have already received feedback from the state party circles about the brewing crisis. The quarrel at the meeting of the new Congress MLAs last Friday, where Ajeet Sharma was appointed CLP leader braving protests from supporters of Vijay Shankar Dubey and Siddharth Saurav, many now feel is just the beginning.

Congress circles know with Nitish Kumar’s JDU keen to enhance its position from the current 43 MLAs and BJP equally determined to further consolidate its numerical advantage in the assembly, the Congress MLAs are facing “competitive bidding” from the two ruling allies.

A senior Bihar Congress leader said: “After MLAs take oath on November 23, only two things matter — when would BJP or JDU decide to start the poaching and whether it would be wholesale or retail defection.”

In the last assembly, after Kumar crossed over from grand alliance to BJP, the then PCC chief and some Congress legislators had defected, and sources said, some of those who had then signed up for JDU but stayed back are still among the new Congress MLAs.

Expressing dismay over the continuing drift of the party and the failure to take remedial steps, Congress’ Vivek Tanka, who was among the change seekers who had written to Sonia Gandhi last August, told ET on Monday: “Unless Congress gets its act together, not only the party but the very democracy of our country will be in crisis. BJP has already captured many institutions. If Congress leadership still can’t get its act together, it would lead to bigger disasters.” Congress MP Karti Chidambaram tweeted: “It is time we retrospect, ideate, consult and act.”

As Kapil Sibal let out his feeling, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot attempted damage control by advocating that party matters be discussed internally. “Congress has seen various crises, including 1969, 1977, 1989 and later in the 1996 but every time we came out stronger due to our ideology, programmes, policies and firm belief in party leadership,” Gehlot tweeted. The camp of change seekers, which on Sunday refuted claims that it had sent a second letter to the party chief, now feels even a token CWC meeting (for which a move has started) “to demonstrate loyalty and stifle discussion” would be meaningless.

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