PATNA: Turmoil hit Bihar’s Opposition Congress on Thursday as four of its six MLCs, led by former state unit chief Ashok Chaudhary, formally switched sides and joined the state’s ruling JD(U), while three Congress MLAs came out openly in support of Chaudhary.
The four breakaway MLCs – Ashok Chaudhary, Dilip Chaudhary, Tanvir Akhtar and Ramchandra Bharti – met chief minister and JD(U) national president Nitish Kumar at his residence and accepted the JD(U) membership.
Ashok Chaudhary, a Mahadalit leader who served as the state Congress chief for four years till September last, had written to Bihar Legislative Council deputy chairman Haroon Rashid on Wednesday night requesting that his group be recognised as a separate entity in the House.
The defection came a day after former CM and Mahadalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi of HAM party quit the ruling NDA and joined the RJD-led Opposition grand alliance. It underlined the fluid nature of Bihar’s politics in the run-up to the polls.
After joining JD(U), Chaudhary described Nitish Kumar as “the finest chief minister Bihar has got” since the first chief minister Srikrushna Singh. Chaudhary, 49, who also served as education minister in the JD(U)-RJD-Congress grand alliance government that collapsed in July last, was known for his proximity to Kumar.
“I led the party in Bihar for four years and helped its strength in the Assembly rise from a mere four to 27, but they (Congress leadership) kept insulting me. I am glad that I am now a part of JD(U) that is headed by a visionary leader,” said Chaudhary, who has served as MLA for a single term.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had appointed Chaudhary as Bihar unit chief on March 31, 2013. Hurt by his alleged anti-party activities, including a foiled scheme to split Congress MLAs to help JD(U), Gandhi removed him from the post on September 26, 2017.
“These four leaders were expelled from Congress. They joined JD(U) after their expulsion for working against the interests of Congress and badmouthing senior leaders such as CP Joshi. Their absence will not affect Congress,” said the grand old party’s state unit chief Kaukab Quadri.
At least three of the 27 Congress MLAs – Munna Tiwary (Buxar), Sudarshan Kumar (Barbigha) and Anand Shankar (Aurangabad) –voiced their support for Chaudhary and described the loss of four MLCs as unfortunate for the party. “He (Chaudhary) had injected new life in the state unit. His departure would potentially harm the party,” said Tiwary.
"Congress has no leadership worth its name in Bihar. every Congress leader is busy running his own shop here,” said Dilip Chaudhary, the most outspoken among the four defecting MLCs.