RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s presence as the chief guest at an event organised by a Congress leader on Saturday served as an indicator that the party wanted to fight the general elections in 2019 with RJD as an ally.
At the event organised by former Congress Union minister Akhilesh Prasad Singh, several party leaders also spoke about Singh’s leadership potential, leading to speculation that he was positioning himself to lead the party in Bihar.
Singh, an upper-caste Bhumihar leader who crossed over to the Congress from RJD about nine years ago, had organised the event to mark 130th birth anniversary of first Bihar CM Srikrishna Singh. Along with Lalu, several senior Congress leaders such as former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, former Kerala governor Nikhil Kumar and former Union minister Shakeel Ahmad were invited.
Lalu said the event should not be used to extract any political meaning as it was organised by Akhilesh Singh for the last 17 years, nor did the Congress leader drop any hint about angling for the state party leadership.
Akhilesh Singh could not have asked for a better moment to push his purported cause. But he is still fighting the outsider tag because of having come from the RJD and is often dubbed by critics as “Lalu Prasad’s man in the Congress”.
The Congress leader, however, tried to win over rivals. He invited Prem Chandra Mishra, one of contenders for the state chief’s post, to speak to the audience.
The RJD chief also named Mishra and while asking the Congress to stop infighting, he said: “Prem Chandra Mishra would tell better.”
A Congress leader said: “There is no one in contention for the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee president’s post other than Akhilesh. There is no harm in supporters of Akhilesh trying to project him as the next Congress chief. The selection of Kaukab Quadri as working president is just to prepare ground for Akhilesh’s coronation as Bihar Congress chief. Akhilesh invited Lalu as the chief guest with the thought that alliance with the RJD in the 2019 polls is a foregone conclusion”.
But other Congress leaders said it was too early to jump the gun in favour of Akhilesh Singh.
“Rahul Gandhi has met at least half a dozen contenders to gather feedback. He might look for someone who is a pure Congressman and not Lalu Prasad’s man,” said a source.
“We need someone who can guard the party’s interests despite an alliance with Lalu Prasad,” said a leader, adding that the party has been looking at a broader picture of a bigger Grand Alliance with possibility of some NDA constituents like the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) coming in. Even though RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha has not dropped any indication, RJD sources said back channels communication were on.