Lalu furious, Congress on sabotage alert
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad is said to be seething with rage over the election results in Bihar, holding the Congress squarely responsible for the Opposition alliance’s failure to cross the halfway mark.
While both the RJD and the Congress firmly believe that they would have been in the reckoning to form the government but for last-minute manipulations by the administration that snatched at least eight seats by force, Lalu is of the opinion that a stronger performance by the Congress would have rendered such calculations irrelevant.
Although the RJD veteran and former chief minister is serving a jail term, he is currently at Rajendra Institute of Medical Science (RIMS) in Ranchi because of illness.
Sources said Lalu had called up several important persons to convey his anguish over the Congress and had accused some leaders of the party, not Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi, of messing things up.
A source told The Telegraph from Patna: “Laluji is dejected. He believes this was the best chance for his son Tejashwi to become chief minister. He laments that the Congress took 70 seats and didn’t fight well. ‘Fifty-one haar gaya (They lost in 51 seats),’ he is saying. He has spoken to many persons.”
The majority of Congress leaders concede they could have done better and are looking for the “mysterious forces” involved in internal sabotage.
A leader said: “First, we accepted unwinnable seats. At least 35 of the 70 seats were impossible to win. Then we fielded unwinnable candidates. We should have sought seats for strong candidates instead of hunting for candidates after grabbing seats. Good seats were identified and the list was given to the negotiators. But an entirely different set of seats was accepted. We were mystified by the development.”
The disconnect between planning and execution was so disturbing that Rahul and his team felt helpless and now plan to undertake a drastic overhaul of the organisational machinery in the coming months, according to the sources.
Appointing a strong and “trustworthy” team has become all the more important amidst strong rumours that the BJP-JDU leadership was already in touch with several Congress MLAs to bolster their wafer-thin majority.
A list of nine “suspect” MLAs has been given to Rahul and surveillance has already been increased on their activities.
The absence of general secretary in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil from the battlefield has become a major concern, weakening the institutional oversight over the Bihar affairs of the party.
The campaigning had been managed by chief Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, who was sent to Patna as an emergency measure when the high command realised that the state unit had not been working efficiently.
While the capability of local leaders was always in doubt, the central leadership cannot escape its responsibility as the Pradesh Congress Committee has not been formed all these years. The PCC chief has been working without an executive.
The pathetic state of organisational affairs may enhance the chances of defection as MLAs don’t see any future in the party. Confirming the fear of defections, a senior leader said: “If our MLAs can be bought in states like Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat, where the leadership is much stronger, only God can save us in Bihar where there is no command and control.”
Leaders of both the RJD and the Congress are talking about several candidates being allegedly defeated mischievously by the districts’ administration, with some results reversed after counting.
“While the demands of our candidates for recount in several constituencies were denied, we know at least two cases where recounting was done without the rival candidate asking for it and the results were reversed. Eight cases of illegality will be challenged in court but the unfortunate part is that election petitions take years to fructify,” a Congress leader said, resigned to another tenure of BJP-JDU rule in Bihar.