Why some believe the Congress is preparing to leave the RJD

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Why some believe the Congress is preparing to leave the RJD

Why some believe the Congress is preparing to leave the RJD
© Provided by India Today When the Congress decided to contest the October 30 byelections in Bihar solo—after ally RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) refused to spare a single seat for the grand old party—it seemed a superficial squabble between political allies. But this is not just about the bypolls. With AICC (All India Congress Committee) Bihar in-charge Bhakta Charan Das declaring the party would contest all 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and Kanhaiya Kumar making veiled attacks on the RJD’s style of politics—and by extension, its leader, Tejashwi—some wonder if the Congress is actively considering a life without the RJD in Bihar.

Kanhaiya Kumar’s recent induction into the Congress had not gone down well with the RJD, as the young leader is seen as a challenger to Tejashwi Yadav, the RJD’s chief ministerial candidate. The consequent tension may be a contributing factor in the allies being forced to chart separate paths. A senior Congress leader also tells India Today about a growing realization in the party about the need to win ground in the Hindi heartland—including Bihar—to revive its national fortunes. He argues that any hope of a Congress bounceback in the 2024 general election is contingent on the party’s performance in such regions. While the Congress is relatively strong in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand, the need of the hour is for the party to make a success of going it alone in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Together, these two states account for 120 Lok Sabha seats.

“Look, the Congress had never before lost—so decisively—two consecutive Lok Sabha elections, as it did in 2014 and 2019. What we are witnessing now is nothing but our lowest ebb, scraping the barrel in the company of the RJD in Bihar,” says the leader, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Our top leaders have now realised that Bihar can no longer be outsourced to the RJD, and there is a growing view that Congress needs to free itself of RJD, root and branch. We may lose these bypolls, but we still have close to three years for the next Lok Sabha polls, and it is a good time to make a beginning.”

A section of Congress leaders argue that with the induction of a young and charismatic leader like Kanhaiya Kumar, it is obvious to expect a possible shift in the status quo in Bihar. But that may mean preparing Congress for a solo journey.

To stage a successful comeback, the Congress will need to build an organisational structure across the state, in every district—after almost three decades of decay. There is a growing realisation among state members that any alliance with RJD will cause the Congress to lose ground once more. Though the Congress state unit’s statement on contesting all seats in Bihar alone is likely not the party’s final word on the issue, there is a foreshadowing here—the hopes that Kanhaiya Kumar can bring the party back to centre stage in Bihar. Those who pin their hopes on this future argue that that the party must not surrender the opportunity of rebuilding.

When Kanhaiya recently spoke in Patna, he chose to attack caste-based politics, which are the fulcrum of the RJD’s politics and electoral fortunes in the state. The young leader spoke about the need for social unity and social justice. The narrative is clearly to the dislike of RJD, the party that has caste identity as its calling card. Kanhaiya, instead, spoke on issues of education and livelihoods. “Let’s ask those for whom elections are games of guna-ganit (caste calculations): how long will you fool the people? Did the coronavirus strike on the basis of caste?” he asked. While the message was buried in non-threatening platitudes—like the need to “draw a bigger line”—and Kanhaiya did not directly mention either the RJD or Tejashwi, many say there is no doubt who he was targeting.

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