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March 6, 2000
NDA will give an eye and ear to split Bihar Congress
Soroor Ahmed in Patna
The National Democratic Alliance is going all out in its effort to engineer a split in the 23-strong Congress Legislature Party in Bihar.
But with less than 12 hours before the first session of the 12th assembly starts, there is no indication of any such calamity in the CLP, though the party itself is in disarray.
While most of the MLAs are with the central leadership's decision to support the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the office-bearers and non-legislators, including many who lost the recent election, are opposed to it.
Of the legislators, only Veena Shahi has gone on record against the decision. And since the legislators matter more, party general secretary Mohsina Kidwai, who was in Patna Saturday, issued a stern warning to all the dissident office-bearers.
The vocal opponents of the RJD are led by Ramashray Prasad Singh, the CLP leader in the previous assembly, and Anil Sharma, one of the party's state-level general secretaries. Both forfeited their deposits in the recent election. They are supported by working president Ram Jatan Sinha, who too lost in Makhdumpur, Jehanabad district, and former education minister Nagendra Jha, whose son was defeated.
Among the veterans, former speaker Radhanandan Jha has openly opposed the alliance with the RJD. His son too lost the recent election. The senior Jha was present at Laloo Prasad Yadav's press conference the day Nitish Kumar was invited to form the government and demanded that Governor Vinod Pande be recalled.
The trouble for the NDA is that the social profile of the 23 Congress MLAs is heavily loaded against it. While seven are Muslim, six are tribal, two Dalit, one Yadav and one Kurmi (Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sadanand Singh).
The upper-caste legislators comprise three Bhumihars, two Brahmins and one Rajput. Of them, Sanjay Kumar, son of Congress MP Rajo Singh, has backed the party high command because his father has a very good relationship with Laloo Yadav.
Since the Bhumihars still control the party organisation, their lobby is actively working against the alliance with the RJD. But even this group is not openly pleading for an alliance with the NDA. Though the media is full of stories about the resentment of tribal Congress legislators, the truth is that none of the six has ever questioned the Congress Working Committee's decision.
When Kidwai came to Patna last week to seek individual support from the legislators before inviting Laloo Yadav to Delhi for talks, 19 of the 23 MLAs spoke in favour of the alliance.
Post-election, the Congress has perhaps realised that it is futile to oppose Laloo Yadav anymore. It is caught between the devil and the deep sea. If the party remains neutral, it will pave the way for the NDA government to take over, which may have to pay a heavy price at the national level where it has launched a blistering attack on the issue of allowing government servants to participate in RSS activities. And if it backs Laloo Yadav, it runs the risk of becoming weaker than it already is in Bihar.
Even the most ardent critics of the RJD chief like former BPCC chief Sarfaraz Ahmed and incumbent Sadanand Singh now concede that they cannot ignore the RJD.
But the hitherto powerful Bhumihar lobby, which got decimated further in the recent election, had gone on the offensive against the RJD even before the complete results were out. Ironically, leaders like Ramashray Prasad Singh had, till a few months ago, been considered very close to Laloo Yadav.
Insiders say that most of the Congressmen realised they had blundered by not contesting election in alliance with the RJD when they launched their poll campaign last month.
"Even Sadanand Singh managed to win only after a secret deal with the RJD chief," a leader told rediff.com. It is worth noticing that Laloo Yadav did not campaign for the RJD's candidate from Kahalgaon, from where Sadanand Singh was contesting, he pointed out.
The 'pro-support' lobby leaders now say: "Till they were enjoying their relationship with Laloo Yadav everything was all right. Now that they have lost, they are opposing him."
Since it requires at least one-third seats, that is eight, for the Congress legislature party to formally split, the NDA government has little to cheer about -- they need the support of at least 12 more MLAs to survive. Even if the Congress legislature party splits the maximum the rebel faction would do is to abstain. And till now, no one has declared their intention to side with the NDA.
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