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Cong softens stand on Nitish

New Delhi, Oct. 16: The Congress high command has asked the party’s Bihar unit not to run any effective campaign against chief minister Nitish Kumar for now.

The reason appears to be the looming threat of a no-confidence motion against the Manmohan Singh government and not the possibility of an alliance between the two parties in future.

The Congress leadership does not appear keen to antagonise the Bihar chief minister at this juncture, as it is working out escape routes in Parliament as Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee appears set to move a no-confidence motion.

The two supporting parties, the SP and the BSP, have so far been non-committal.

The government’s managers have begun tapping the parties that are not desperate for an early general election. The JD(U) has 20 seats in the Lok Sabha and the Congress leadership feels Nitish may not like to pull down the government in the winter session of Parliament even as its ally, the BJP, pushes him to grab the opportunity.

The Congress’s assessment is that both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee would prefer elections at the earliest, but Nitish might like to choose his own timing. The Bihar unit of the Congress, unaware of the compulsions of its central leadership, submitted an agitation programme against the state government to AICC general secretary Gulchain Singh Charak for approval. The permission was, however, denied.

Leaders from Bihar were so incensed that they approached Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to complain against the general secretary. The leaders explained how they felt politically fettered in the absence of clarity about direction and strategy. Sonia or Rahul didn’t open up before these leaders and clarified that the party’s state unit was free to raise people’s voices and stage demonstrations against the state government. However, Charkar, who knew the strategy that is usually kept under wraps and never revealed in front of the rank and file, asked the Bihar leaders to go slow. He asked them to wait for a while without stating the reason.

The Bihar unit of the Congress thought the chief minister was facing a crisis of sorts at present with widespread protests against him and this was the time to give him a strong push. The Congress, which relies on the RJD’s four members in Parliament where the numbers are delicately poised and the UPA is clearly in minority without the crutch of SP and the BSP, hopes that Nitish would not be happy playing second fiddle to Mamata in national politics.


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