The Telegraph
Monday , June 17 , 2013
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Weak Congress now most sought-after

Patna, June 16: Following the split in the BJP-JD(U) alliance, the marginalised Congress in Bihar is now the most sought-after party for alliance for the next Lok Sabha elections.

This despite the Congress candidate, Jitendra Swami, obtaining just a little over 30,000 votes in the recent Maharajganj Lok Sabha bypoll.

“Alliances are decided by a Congress committee led by A.K. Antony. The state unit has no say,” said a Congress spokesperson. Central leaders privately confirmed there was a move to bring JD(U) into its fold. “Does it not ring a bell when the Centre has been generous to the Nitish Kumar government in the last six months?” asked an office-bearer of the Congress high command.

It is not surprising that ever since the JD(U)-BJP split became inevitable, the other aspirant for the Congress alliance, RJD chief Lalu Prasad, has concentrated his attack on Nitish and not the BJP. “Nitish is fooling the people. He is doing all this for Muslim votes,” Lalu said. Muslims constitute 16 per cent of the Bihar electorate and Lalu has, till now, got a lion’s share of those votes, 80 per cent even in his defeat. His “mistake” of snapping ties with the Congress in 2009 cost him dearly as Congress candidates made inroads into his Muslim votebank. “Now, with Nitish snapping ties with the BJP over Narendra Modi, there is a threat of Muslims tilting towards the JD(U).

AICC general secretary Bhakt Charan Das’s statements that the JD(U)’s secular credentials are genuine and Rahul Gandhi not ruling out the JD(U)’s entry into the UPA indicate Congress’ preference. But an AICC office-bearer said the Congress would love a “UP-like model” where two bitter rivals (SP and BSP) back the Congress.

The relationship between the Congress and Nitish surfaced when the JD(U) backed UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee over the NDA’s P.A. Sangma for President. “The only hitch is that Nitish’s entire politics has revolved around anti-Congressism. It will take some time for him and the Congress to adjust to each other,” said a Congress leader.