With Assembly elections in Bihar months away, there seems to be unrest among the Congress’s backward class leaders in the state, who claim that the party is ignoring their communities in both ticket distribution of election tickets and organisational posts. They complain that the party is favouring leaders from upper castes, Muslim and Dalit communities.
A section of Congress leaders from Other Backward Classes (OBC) are even questioning the party’s continued alliance with RJD, many claiming that the party has “outsourced OBC politics” to the latter.
Several leaders are learnt to have have told the party high command that the alliance with RJD, which has centred its politics around OBCs and Muslims, over the last several years has resulted in the Congress neither grooming an OBC leadership nor giving adequate representation to leaders from this section. The party’s focus on upper castes, they contend, will not pay dividends as long as it is with the RJD given the antipathy among upper caste voters for RJD and its brand of politics.
Sources said the unrest came to the fore at meetings of Bihar Pradesh election committee and PCC working committee, attended by AICC general secretary in charge of Bihar Shaktisinh Gohil. In the working committee meet on Wednesday, sources said one member, a backward caste leader, announced his resignation from all posts after he was stopped from speaking when he raised the issue of the party’s social engineering strategy.
In the meeting, Bihar Youth Congress president Gunjan Patel asked how the party can aspire to come to power by excluding “52 per cent” of the state’s population. The issue was raised by former state Congress vice-president Pravin Singh Kushwaha as well.
While state Congress leaders dubbed the unrest as a “quest for tickets”, some leaders said it can create bad optics for the party.
Kailash Pal, who resigned from party posts, told The Sunday Express, “The Congress does not focus on social justice and social engineering. I can give you many examples. When the RJD-JD(U)-Congress combine came to power in 2015, we were given four ministerial posts — two went to upper castes and one each to Muslim and Dalit (leaders). Then came the PCC reshuffle. The state unit president is from an upper caste.”
He pointed out, “Among four working presidents, two are from upper castes, one is a Dalit and one is a Muslim… The campaign committee chief is from the upper castes. If the Congress’s strategy is to woo back the upper castes, who have moved to BJP…I can understand it can be strategy…(so) then how can we continue our alliance with RJD, as upper castes despise RJD?”
Another senior Congress leader, who did not want to be named, said around 12 per cent of 41 Congress candidates in 2015 Assembly elections were from OBC.
Calling it a “wrong perception” to imagine that Hindu voters are flocking towards the BJP only due to Hindutva, this leader said, “The BJP is politically reaching out to every community and giving them representation and voice in the party. And we are crushing the OBC leadership. Our social base has not expanded in three decades. We have outsourced OBC politics to RJD in Bihar.”
The BJP, this leader pointed out, is also in alliance with a party which focuses on OBC and EBC politics. “But BJP has not outsourced (this politics to JD-U) — they are giving adequate representation to OBC and EBCs,” the leader said.