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Factionalism test for Bihar in-charge

The Congress party’s new Bihar in-charge, Satyavrat Chaturvedi, got a taste of factionalism in the state unit during his first visit here on Sunday.

Prominent state leaders, especially past presidents like Ram Jatan Sinha, Anil Sharma, Chandan Bagchi and leaders like Awadhesh Narayan Singh, K.K. Tiwari and Manorama Singh skipped the crucial party meeting convened at Sadaquat Ashram to take stock of poll preparedness and chalk out a strategy for campaigning in the remaining four phases of polls in the state.

“Leave them (old senior leaders of the state unit) and take the party forward with the help of the younger generation. Those who have shunned the party’s programmes and activities will be left behind,” Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary Vinod Sharma quoted Chaturvedi as saying. Sharma had, without naming any senior leader, raised the issue of many senior leaders not participating in the birth and death anniversaries of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and others.

Another senior leader was of the opinion that some “senior” leaders had become a spent force and wondered why these leaders had kept themselves away from the poll process. “What kind of message are they giving the people? They are in the party but not engaged in campaigning or any kind of party activity. After all, this is not an election where Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ashok Choudhary’s prestige is at stake. It is Rahul Gandhi’s prestige that is at stake. Had they been true Congressmen, they would not have indulged in factionalism at a time when the party is fighting what is, probably, its toughest electoral battle since 1952,” said the leader, who did not want to be named.

This is not the first time the party’s factionalism has come to the fore in the party in-charge’s presence. On June 29, 2013, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary and Bihar in-charge C.P. Joshi had faced a similar situation during his first visit as state party in-charge. Joshi never returned to discuss alliance prospects or interact with party leaders or ticket contenders. At that time, senior leaders like Ram Jatan Sinha, Anil Sharma, Choudhary Mehboob Ali Qaiser (who has since quit the party and is contesting on an LJP ticket from Khagaria), Awadhesh Narayan Singh, K.N. Pathak and others had met Joshi at the party’s state headquarters, congratulated him and left without attending the meet. Leaders like K K Tiwari, Ashok Ram, Chandan Bagchi and Manorama Singh too had skipped the meeting to review the party’s programmes and activities.

Sources said even Nikhil Kumar and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, who are the tallest leaders from Bihar, have not engaged themselves in campaigning for the party’s candidates. Polling in their constituencies got over in the first phase itself, on April 10.

“The more important question is where these two leaders are. They should have campaigned for party candidates,” a senior leader said.