NEW DELHI: After Congress’s dismal performance in the Bihar Assembly elections, senior party leaders on Thursday conceded that the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) couldn’t reach the halfway mark of 122 because the grand old party was the “weak link”.
For Union minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram said that the party was disappointed with the Bihar poll results and the Congress Working Committee (CWC) will deliberate the issue.
“We are definitely disappointed with the Bihar results, but the vote difference between the NDA and the Grand Alliance was just 3 per cent, and the CWC will discuss and take a view on it,” he told the media.
The Congress managed to win only 19 of the 70 seats it contested, while the RJD emerged as the single-largest party, winning 75 seats. Their allies Left parties were successful in 16 of the 29 seats they had contested.
Accepting that the Congress could have done much better, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the mandate was against Nitish Kumar and despite 15 years of his power, Bihar remains one of the poorest states.
Congress general secretary Tariq Anwar also said the “weak show” by the party stopped the Grand Alliance from forming a government in the state.
“We should accept the truth that due to weak show by the party, the GA could not make the government,” said Anwar.
Anwar also came out with a flurry of tweets calling for "urgent and deep introspection" over the debacle of the party, the second largest constituent of the opposition coalition, which contested as many as 70 seats but returned with a tally of just 19.
On Wednesday, Bihar Congress president Madan Mohan Jha also admitted that he was not satisfied with the party’s performance.
"We must accept the truth. Because of the poor performance of the Congress, Bihar has been deprived of a Mahagathbandhan government. The Congress must introspect as to where it faltered. Also, the entry of AIMIM in Bihar is not a good sign," Anwar tweeted.
Talking to PTI, Anwar, who had been a multiple term MP from Katihar in the state, added, "The Congress is opposed to communalism in all forms. The AIMIM seeks to mobilize support of Muslims in much the same way as the BJP does in case of Hindus. Both would feed on each other."
"This is not good for the society at large. The AIMIM has made inroads in the densely populated Kosi Seemanchal region which has a high concentration of Muslims, and always been known for social harmony," he added.
The Hyderabad MP's party has returned with a tally of five seats, less than a year after registering its first victory in the state in a by-election.
Anwar said, "The BJP-led NDA has managed to win the elections yen ken prakaren (adopting all measures, fair and foul) but Bihar has lost. Bihar wanted change. It wanted deliverance from the woes brought about by an incompetent government in the last 15 years."
Anwar, who was a member of the campaign committee set up by the Congress for the assembly polls, also took a dig at Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose JD(U) has witnessed a sharp decline in its tally compared to what it was five years ago, and now has far fewer seats than the BJP.
The JD(U) had won 71 seats in 2015 when it was a partner in the Grand Alliance which included Lalu Prasad's RJD and the Congress.
This time it has only 43 MLAs against the saffron partys 71.
"Nitish Kumar may get sworn in as the chief minister, for the last time, if the BJP remains benevolent towards him. But bakre ki maan kab tak khair manaayegi (how long can a lamb escape being slaughtered)," the former Union minister tweeted.
Losing 51 seats out of a total of 70 where the Congress fielded its candidates is a big setback for the party, Anwar said.
He said that he would inform the party high command on this on the basis of the feedback he has received from the party's grassroot workers.
Earlier, CPI(ML) secretary general Dipankar Bhattacharya voiced disapproval of the decision to grant 70 seats to the Congress.
"Apparently, 70 assembly segments in Bihar were too much to handle for the Congress," said Bhattacharya, whose party is a part of the Mahagathbandhan and has come out with a stellar performance, winning 12 seats out of the 19 it had contested.
JD(U) spokesman Rajiv Ranjan Prasad, however, sneered at Anwar and claimed the Mahagathbandhan's performance would have been worse but for Chirag Paswan's LJP, which he did not mention by name.
"The Congress and the Mahagathbandhan should consider themselves lucky. Had a vote katwa (vote splitter) not entered the scene, they would have been wiped out," Prasad said.
Meanwhile, former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, whose HAM(S) is an NDA constituent and has won four seats, sought to muddy the waters for the opposition by saying that Congress MLAs should consider joining Nitish Kumar.
"Nitish is the leader of all. Congress MLAs should consider joining him," Manjhi said mischievously.
Buoyed by encouraging reports of the exit polls, the Congress had rushed senior leaders including Randeep Surjewala, Avinash Pande, Subodh Kant Sahay and some ministers and MLAs from Rajasthan and Punjab to prevent "poaching" of newly elected MLAs, party sources said.
But, the declaration of results on November 10 ended their euphoria and Surjewala and others left Patna on Wednesday morning.
(With PTI Inputs)