After removing Ashok Kumar Choudhary as Bihar unit chief, the Congress has more than half-a-dozen leaders in race for post of Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee (BPCC) president.
While the likes of Dilip Choudhary, an MLC, and Buxar MLA Sanjay Tiwari are proposing their own names, the party is unlikely to name a full-time president before its organisational polls conclude on October 15. For now, Kaukab Qadri is the working president, although his name cannot be ruled out if the party thinks of making a Muslim its state unit president.
Other strong contenders from the minority community could be legislators Javed Azad and Shakil Ahmed Khan, and Shakil Ahmed.
Congress’s tally of 27 MLAs in Bihar Vidhan Sabha has 12 upper-caste MLAs, and there is a belief the party look at a candidate from this section.
While there appears little chance for Rajput candidates Nikhil Kumar — because of his lack of participation in state politics — and former minister Awadhesh Kumar Singh, as he is suspected to be on the side of potential defectors, Brahmin contenders include MLC and former minister Madan Mohan Jha, loyalist Prem Chandra Mishra, and MLA Vijay Shanker Dubey.
“While Mishra is popular in the media, Jha is suave and has the capacity to take along people. Dubey is a seasoned politician,” a senior party leader said. “If a Brahmin has to be made the president, this could be the best time to make one, and the choice could be between Jha and Mishra.”
Jagannath Mishra was the last Brahmin BPCC president, in the late 1980s.
Another leader said the party had given tickets to 16 upper caste leaders, and 12 of them won. “It suggests our acceptability and also our potential to challenge the BJP, which thinks upper castes are with it. But the party has to take a call between a Brahmin and a Bhumihar,” said the leader, recalling that Anil Sharma, a Bhumihar, had been the state president before Choudhary Mehboob Ali Qaisar, who was succeeded by Ashok Choudhary.
Among Bhumihar contenders, former Union minister Akhilesh Singh, Bachwada MLA Amita Bhushan and even Anil Sharma are seen as front-runners.
A Congress leader said, “If there is no Muslim president, there could be a Muslim CLP leader. The choice may narrow down to an upper caste and a Muslim. Qadri’s brief tenure will be closely monitored for his acceptability.”
Meanwhile, former BPCC chief Ashok Choudhary on Wednesday said: “I will not leave the party. I had been state president for four-and-a-half years and deserved a respectful exit. Anyway, I welcome elevation of Kaukab Qadri and will extend my cooperation.”