The Bihar Congress has somehow managed to avert a split as rebel MLAs could not muster two-thirds strength at a time there is talk that the state unit chief and the CLP leader want to leave the party. Sources in the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee said state president Ashok Kumar Choudhary could lose his position and that could again raise the spectre of a split. Several Bihar MLAs have complained to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi about Choudhary, who has denied trying to engineer a split in the state unit. Choudhary last week at a Patna news conference denied allegations of “being part of any rebel group that had got signatures of 14 MLAs for a merger with JD(U)”.
Though Choudhary is a member of Legislative Council, his position as Congress state chief makes him accountable for recent developments in the party that has 27 MLAs in the House. Sources in the party said CLP leader Sadanand Singh had admitted to the party leadership that he was miffed over not being considered for a ministerial berth when he has been one of longest-serving Congress MLAs.
Party sources said some MLAs had got an internal letter seeking a merger with the JD(U) but five minority MLAs had refused to join the rebels, which kept the defectors’ count limited to 14. The rebels would need 18 MLAs to split the party without activating the anti-defection law.
“As there would be less than 10 Congress loyalists among 27 MLAs, there are sets of MLAs who see their future with JD (U) and some with the BJP. The rebels’ original plan was to merge with JD (U) but it did not get backing of five Muslim MLAs, something that upset calculations of potential defectors, who are still strategising,” said a Congress source.
Sources said Choudhary, who had met AICC president Sonia Gandhi recently, avoided meeting Rahul. “Ashok Choudhary should have shown the guts to meet Rahul Gandhi to explain his side of the story,” said a Congress MLA requesting anonymity. A Bihar Congress leader said: “Even if there is no formal split, there could be break-up in the Congress. The Speaker can recognise rebel group having less than 18 MLAs as a separate group. Once Ashok is removed as party chief, he may play the Dalit and victim card and look for excuses to leave the party.”
JD (U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said: “Several Congress leaders are not comfortable with the alliance with the RJD. But we have no role in internal matter of the Congress.”