As Sonia Piggybacks Lalu-Nitish, Congress Loses Identity in Bihar
 Bihar  Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with RJD chief Lalu Prasad during a programme on Bihar elections in Patna. (Photo: PTI)
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with RJD chief Lalu Prasad during a programme on Bihar elections in Patna. (Photo: PTI)

As Sonia Piggybacks Lalu-Nitish, Congress Loses Identity in Bihar

Dr Shakeel Ahmad Khan is an AICC secretary and Congress candidate from Kadwa constituency near Katihar in Seemanchal. But to the people in his constituency, he isn’t a Congress man. He is the Mahagathbandhan candidate.

In 2010, Rahul Gandhi had decided that his party would contest the Bihar Assembly elections on its own. The Congress was reduced to a paltry four seats. After being routed in UP as well, both in the state and general elections, the future of India’s oldest political party in these two states is certainly in peril. Will the Mahagathbandhan prove to be their saving grace in Bihar?

Congress Winning the Battle and Losing the War?

We managed to catch up with Shakeel Ahmad Khan on the campaign trail. There appeared to be no discord among the three parties that form the Mahagathbandhan. RJD and JD(U) members were working to bring a Congress candidate to power.

The Congress has allied with Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav because that is the need of the day. The ideological challenge put up by the BJP, RSS and Narendra Modi has brought us together with the RJD and JD(U). We all want to keep the idea of a secular India and Bihar alive.

Dr Shakeel Ahmad Khan, AICC secretary and Congress candidate from Kadwa to The Quint

Dr Shakeel Ahmad Khan (right) speaks to The Quint’s Aakash Joshi (Photo: The Quint)
Dr Shakeel Ahmad Khan (right) speaks to The Quint’s Aakash Joshi (Photo: The Quint)

However, among the voters and even the workers on the ground, there is no mention of his party, only the alliance. Puttu Kumar Mandal is an avid supporter of Nitish and was trying to defend his alliance with Lalu to voters at a chai shop in Kadwa.

Forward castes always bring up Lalu and ‘jungle raj’ as an issue. This is because they have nothing to say against Nitish. I also point out Lalu’s initial years to voters. Yes Congress will win this seat… the Mahagathbandhan is unbeatable. No one has questioned me about allying with the Congress.

Puttu Kumar Mandal, JD(U) supporter

Puttu Mandal (right) says that the Congress will win the seat, but on the strength of the fact that they are a part of the unbeatable Mahagathbandhan. (Photo: The Quint)
Puttu Mandal (right) says that the Congress will win the seat, but on the strength of the fact that they are a part of the unbeatable Mahagathbandhan. (Photo: The Quint)

The Congress may win a few more seats than last time, but will it be at the cost of losing it’s identity? While the Lalu-Nitish alliance is both praised and decried, the Congress seems to have been almost forgotten.

All Part of a New Plan?

The Congress party seems to have changed its approach to the alliance and seems ready to take the Mahagathbandhan beyond Bihar. If that does happen, the Congress’ pedigree as a national party and it’s influence, however diminished, on the national stage will make it a strong player in the alliance.

What was conspicuously absent from Rahul’s speech though, was praise for Lalu which has lent strength to the talk of the Gandhi scions’ dislike for the Yadav icon.

Shakeel Ahmad Khan, however, is sticking to the party line.

Politics takes place in the present not the future. Right now the alliance is beneficial to the political process and the people. This alliance will go a lot further.

Dr Shakeel Ahmad Khan, AICC secretary and Congress candidate from Kadwa to The Quint

Of course how much further the alliance will go depends on the peoples verdict, which will only become known on November 8th. As good friends as they are now, the Congress, RJD and JD(U) are unlikely to stay together if they lose.

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