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In Bihar, Congress Lost a Friend, the Government & Realignment

Nitish-Lalu breakup comes as a huge embarrassment to Congress, which had hoped to build a national Grand Alliance.

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Ten days ago when former Union Minister and Congress leader Akhilesh Prasad Singh asked Nitish Kumar to choose either the NDA or Grand Alliance, instead of sailing in two boats, he was reportedly reprimanded by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

An unwritten gag order was issued to all Bihar Congress leaders to refrain from commenting adversely against Nitish, till then in the good books of Rahul.

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On Thursday, shortly after Nitish’s swearing-in along with BJP leader Sushil Modi, Rahul lamented how Nitish’s greed made the Bihar CM cross over the fence for greener pastures. “This is the basic problem when certain leaders give two hoots to principles and ideologies, and shift their strategy as per their convenience,” a visibly pained Rahul said, taking a dig at Nitish for whom his soft spot is well-known.

Also Read: Live: Nitish Expected to Breeze Through Bihar Assembly Floor Test

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Congress’ Dilemma

But the point is Rahul, who met Nitish earlier this week, could not gauge the mood. The Congress scion couldn’t foresee what was in the offing in Bihar while his grassroots-level leaders could sense the lull before the impending storm.

As Nitish walks off leaving Congress in the lurch, the grand old party must be ruing why it joined hands with an ‘opportunistic leader’, whom Ghulam Nabi Azad recently described as a ‘man with no principles’.

While the RJD has managed to get a minimum 20 percent votes even in the worst political situation, the Congress has had to ride piggyback on regional satraps to get a foot-hold, sorry, toe-hold, in the caste-ridden state, ever since it was ousted from power in March 1990.

It was against this background that the grand old party increased its tally from four in the last assembly to 27 in the 2015 Assembly elections.

Buoyed by the success of the Grand Alliance stitched together by the RJD, JD(U) and Congress, where the mahagathbandhan together polled around 40 percent votes (in 2015 Assembly elections) thereby giving a crushing and decisive defeat to the Modi-led BJP, the grand old party was in advanced stage to form a Bihar-type Grand Alliance at the national level so as to give a credible alternative to the BJP.

Also Read: Ignoring His Mann ki Baat, Nitish Seals JD(U)’s Fate Till 2025

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Nitish-Lalu breakup comes as a huge embarrassment to Congress, which had hoped to build a national Grand Alliance.
Lalu Prasad, a known Sonia loyalist, insists that a Bihar model of grand alliance can still be formed.
(Photo: Lijumol Joseph/ The Quint)

The Three S’s Lost

With the predictable desertion by Nitish, the Congress has now lost all the three ‘S’ – satta (government), saathi (friend) and samikaran (political realignment) in no time. A junior partner under Nitish, Congress was never seen as a troubled ally.

In fact, it was the other way round when Nitish, taking a divergent stand from Congress, supported PM Modi on surgical strike, demonetisation and presidential election, thereby causing Sonia and Rahul huge embarrassment. He even skipped a Sonia invite in May, only to join Modi the next day for lunch hosted at PM’s residence in honour of Mauritius PM.

“Both Sonia ji and Rahul trusted Nitish immensely and were of the opinion that he could be a valuable ally in their fight against a dominant rival like Narendra Modi. However, Nitish has not only let down the Congress, but also put his credibility at stake,” said a senior AICC leader.

Also Read: 5 Muslim, 11 Yadav MLAs Could Turn Nitish’s Floor Test Around

In fact, it was Mamata Banerjee who understood Nitish properly when she reportedly called him a ‘traitor’ during her Bihar visit after demonetisation was announced last year.
A senior Congress leader
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Bihar Model of Alliance

Lalu Prasad, a known Sonia loyalist, insists that a Bihar model of grand alliance could still be formed, notwithstanding the fact that a sathi (friend) has deserted. “Achcha hua chala gaya (It’s good that he left). Now we know who are true friends and foes. It will be easier to forge a grand alliance to counter BJP’s rapid strides,” said Lalu in Ranchi on Thursday soon after appearing in a CBI court.

But this could be a mere consolation to the party which could not form a government in Goa and Manipur earlier this year despite being the single largest party. And now, the satta in Bihar too has gone for no fault of theirs, thereby making Congress the biggest loser in the war of attrition between Lalu and Nitish.

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(Neena Choudhary is a Bihar-based journalist. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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Topics:  Rahul Gandhi   Lalu Yadav   CM Nitish Kumar 

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