Patna: Knives are out in the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar over Congress sinking Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav’s bid to become the chief minister in a close contest.
RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwari has held Congress leader Rahul Gandhi responsible for the alliance’s miss in dislodging the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) from power, saying the latter was on a picnic in Shimla while campaigning was on in the state.
“Rahul Gandhi should learn from PM Modi. He is younger than PM Modi and yet he came to Bihar only three days for campaigning. PM Modi came and addressed 12 meetings,” Tiwari told ThePrint.
“The Congress took 70 seats of the Grand Alliance and yet it could not organise 70 rallies during campaigning. We did not see Priyanka Gandhi. When campaigning was going on full swing in Bihar, Rahul Gandhi was in Shimla on a picnic. Is this how a political party is run?” he added.
Furious over the remarks on its senior leadership, the Congress has asked RJD to restrain Tiwari.
“Tiwari himself is a sidelined RJD leader. The remark has not been made either by Tejashwi Yadav or Rabri Devi. But RJD should restrain Tiwari. He is speaking the language of BJP leaders. It goes against alliance dharma,” said Congress MLC Premchandra Mishra.
“The Congress did not lose because of Rahul Gandhi. We lost because of the caste politics of RJD. We did not get the upper caste votes,” said the new Congress Legislature Party leader Ajit Sharma.
Party spokesperson Harkhu Jha too said the RJD should introspect before pointing fingers at the Congress. “In the previous assembly elections, RJD had 80 seats of the 101 seats they contested in the 2015 assembly polls. This time they contested 144 seats but managed to win only 75 seats,” said Jha.
This sparring has come days after the RJD-led alliance failed to win the state despite Tejashwi’s party emerging as the single-largest with 75 seats. The Congress could win only 19 seats out of the 70 it contested. However, the Left parties in the alliance showed a resurgence winning 16 of the 29 seats they fought.
The Nitish Kumar-led NDA returned to power even as the CM’s party was reduced to 43 seats while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged as the senior alliance partner with its 74 seats.
This is not the first time after the assembly election results on 10 November that the Congress has been blamed for dragging the Mahagathbandhan down with its poor strike rate. CPI(ML) leader Dipankar Bhattacharya and Congress’s own Tariq Anwar have said this as well.
However, this time the attack is directly on Rahul Gandhi. What has hurt the party more is BJP’s gleeful comments on the issue.
In a tweet sharing Tiwari’s video statement, Union minister and BJP leader Giriraj Singh said, “Shivanand ji knows Rahul Gandhi more than Obama and has dubbed Rahul Gandhi as a tourist politician. The Congress is silent.” He was referring to former US President Barack Obama’s adverse appraisal of Gandhi in his new memoir.
राहुल गांधी जी के बारे में बिहार में महागठबंधन के सहयोगी पार्टी RJD के वरिष्ठ नेता शिवानंद तिवारी कहते हैं कि राहुल गांधी नॉन सीरीयस पर्यटक राजनेता है।
शिवानंद जी तो राहुल जी को ओबामा से ज़्यादा जानने लगे है ।
फिर भी कांग्रेस चुप क्यू ? pic.twitter.com/mWD6ToQYCJ
— Shandilya Giriraj Singh (@girirajsinghbjp) November 15, 2020
According to Congress sources, Tiwari’s remarks have approval from the RJD leadership as he is one of the closest leaders to Lalu Prasad and among the few senior leaders Tejashwi respects. Tejashwi even requested Tiwari to accompany him when he filed his nomination papers from Raghopur.
“We know that Shivanand Tiwari has got the approval to speak,” said a senior Congress leader who didn’t wish to be named.
The Congress ‘arrogance’
It’s not just the Congress’ poor performance that has angered the RJD, but the “arrogance” of its central leadership.
“When Congress fielded former AMU student union president Maskoor Ahmad Usmani from Jale, we knew that it would communalise the atmosphere because he was associated with the Jinnah controversy. Tejashwi Yadav personally telephoned Rahul Gandhi asking him to replace the candidate with Rishi Mishra — a former MLA and grandson of iconic Mithilanchal leader late L.N. Mishra. Rahul refused,” said a senior RJD leader on condition of anonymity.
“As a result we lost most of the seats in Mithilanchal. In Darbhanga district alone NDA won eight of the 10 seats. Even 50 per cent Yadavs voted against our senior leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui and Lalu’s close associate Bhola Yadav,” said the leader.
“Mithilanchal had been our strongest fort with large Muslim and Yadav population. But due to the arrogance of Congress we lost most of the seats,” added the leader, insisting that it showed that Gandhi or his advisors do not understand Bihar politics.
Ever since 2009, when the Congress fought solo because Lalu Prasad gave the party just three seats, the RJD has been careful not to exclude Congress from the alliance as it opened up space for Muslim voters. But it ensured that the seats given were kept at a low level.
In 2015 polls, when Lalu allied with Nitish, he was in favour of giving Congress only 25 seats as he believed that giving the party more seats meant gifting the seats to the BJP. It was Nitish who ensured that Congress got 41 seats.
“The mistake also falls on Tejashwi. He should have stuck to his offer of 40 seats but in his desperation to have an alliance he offered 70 seats. This election results will be a guide to future seat sharing between the two parties,” added the senior RJD leader quoted above.