Sidelining of state leaders could have led to Congress’ drubbing - Hindustan Times
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Sidelining of state leaders could have led to Congress’ drubbing

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Nov 12, 2020 09:27 AM IST

A Congress functionary said Bihar leaders felt slighted after the central team completely took over the party’s election management from the state leadership.

The Congress’ decision to deploy central leaders in Bihar and sideline the state leadership in overseeing the poll management appears to have backfired on the grand old party in the assembly elections.

Bihar Pradesh Congress President Madan Mohan Jha addresses a press conference at party office, in Patna.(PTI)
Bihar Pradesh Congress President Madan Mohan Jha addresses a press conference at party office, in Patna.(PTI)

A Congress functionary said Bihar leaders felt slighted after the central team completely took over the party’s election management from the state leadership.

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Soon after its list of candidates was released, the Congress leadership had deployed central teams to quell the rebellion triggered by the selection of “tainted” leaders and also to oversee the party’s poll preparations.

This was perhaps the first time when the All India Congress Committee (AICC), the party’s central unit, had taken complete charge of the poll management and preparations during any state election, people aware of the development said.

The functionary quoted above said Bihar Congress chief Madan Mohan Jha was missing from the party’s campaign trail though it was initially stated that he was busy with his own election to the legislative council.

“But that ended on October 22. He was not even present at the time of releasing the party manifesto. Similarly, other senior leaders too were missing from the election scene,” said Bihar Congress leader Kishore Kumar Jha.

Click here for the full coverage of Bihar election 2020

Another senior leader Shamim Akhtar said the move to bring in outsiders for poll management triggered backlash from the sidelined Congress workers, who, as a response, did not participate in the party’s campaigning.

“There was a reaction from rank and file. Congress workers were not involved in the election management. There was no crisis management. Most of the people who came from outside were on pleasure trip and failed to understand the caste complexity and geographical heterogeneity of a state like Bihar. The emphasis was more on media management than the actual campaign,” he said.

The Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) and state leaders had taken a backseat and AICC functionaries were running the show, micro-managing the election preparedness and formulating campaign and media strategy, added Akhtar.

Sidelining of the state leadership apart from choice of seats, poor selection of candidates, weak organisational structure, delayed seat-sharing deal, unimpressive campaign and lack of coordination with alliance partners have been identified as key reasons for the party’s poor show in the assembly elections.

The Congress was considered the “weakest link” in the mahagathbandhan and performed badly in the elections, winning just 19 of the 70 seats it contested.

The party was hoping to benefit from the overwhelming response to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav’s rallies and his campaign narrative of jobs and social-economic development of Bihar rather than addressing its weaknesses.

Tejashwi Yadav had campaigned extensively across the state and even set a record of sorts by addressing 19 rallies in a day, bringing the ‘mahagathbandhan’ back in the fight after having been decimated in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

His campaigning also drew applause from leaders of the Congress party’s alliance partners in different states.

“The remarkable performance of RJD to emerge as the single largest party in Bihar inspires confidence in our democracy. I wholeheartedly congratulate Tejashwi for leading the RJD. I wish him and RJD a bright future,” tweeted DMK chief MK Stalin.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar also praised him. “What I saw during campaign was on one hand there was Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with incumbent chief minister Nitish Kumar. On the other side, there was an inexperienced youngster, Tejaswi Yadav. And the way he fought elections will offer inspiration to many youngsters,” he said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Aurangzeb Naqshbandi covers politics and keeps a close watch on developments in Jammu & Kashmir. He has been a journalist for 16 years.

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