Updated: April 28, 2022 8:28:25 am
The steady erosion in the Congress party’s vote share in Bihar has put its alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which has cemented its position as the principal Opposition party in the state now, under considerable stress.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav’s recent statement in an interview with PTI – that the Congress must focus on 200-odd parliamentary seats in which it is in direct battle with the BJP while taking a “backseat” in states where regional parties are dominant players – seems to have further strained the relationship between the two parties, which have been in an alliance since 2000 barring the 2009 general elections.
On Tuesday, the functionaries of the two allies clashed on Twitter over Tejashwi’s statement, with the Congress’ social media department national convenor Saral Patel chiding the RJD that “Congress doesn’t need your advice, keep your advice to yourself. Congress people are capable enough to think about what it should do”.
The RJD fielded its social media convenor Aakash to respond to Patel’s tweet, in which he even tagged Tejashwi. The RJD functionary taunted the Congress, saying “The Congress is so capable of thinking about itself that it is fighting with NOTA. This arrogance has reduced you to levels below NOTA”.
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Poll data shows that the Congress has been in a state of decline in Bihar since the 2020 Assembly polls, in which the party managed to win only 19 out of the 70 seats it contested even as the RJD emerged as the single largest party by scalping 75 out of 144 seats it fought. In fact, on many occasions, the RJD leaders have held the Congress responsible for their party stopping short of a majority in the polls.
During the 2021 bypolls to the Kusheshwar Asthan and Tarapur Assembly seats, the RJD had rejected the Congress’ seat-sharing offer. “Why should we give the seat to Congress? So that they would lose? So they would lose their deposit?” RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav had then said. A call from Congress president Sonia Gandhi to Lalu to enquire about his health had helped mend their parties’ ties to some degree.
However, the RJD had then finished a close second in both the seats, behind the Janata Dal (United), with the Congress candidates unable to poll even 5 per cent votes in each constituency. The grand old party’s losing streak continues in 2022, with its candidate failing to garner even one per cent vote in the Bochachan Assembly seat bypoll, in which the RJD won.
Also, in the recent polls to the 24 Bihar Legislative Council seats, the Congress could get only one seat. The party’s best performance in Bihar in recent years was seen during the 2015 Assembly polls when it had won 27 out of 40 seats in a “mahagathbandhan (mega alliance)” with the RJD and the JD(U).
RJD national spokesperson Subodh Mehta told The Indian Express that his party has been trying to convince the Congress to accept its suggestions “borne out by pragmatic politics and the records of 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections”.
“In western India, Congress is still the prime opponent of BJP but in eastern India, there has been dominance of regional parties. Congress has to accept it and let regional parties take on BJP. It should focus on 265-odd seats of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and some other states…If the BJP has to be defeated, Congress and its allies have to put up a collective fight,” Mehta said.
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