Bihar & bypolls: Sign to Rahul as Congress loses bargaining energy

Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 12

It was another day of anxiety for the Congress which emerged the top loser in Bihar elections and acutely underperformed in the 59-bypoll segment.

Of the 129 seats, the grand old party contested in Bihar and across bypolls constituencies, it won only 28—losing 41 of the 59 byelections to the saffron party. The BJP by contrast contested 180 seats in Bihar and bypolls combined and wrested 115.

With the Congress pulling down another ally in Bihar, the party’s bargaining power could well erode as it fails to carry its own weight.

Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut on Thursday said the Congress dragged the RJD down in Bihar and Tejashwi Yadav could well have been chief minister had it not been for the Congress.

While the Congress blamed election fraud, EVMs and the AIMIM-BSP combine for its drubbing in Bihar, the fact remains it failed to change the recent history of dragging down electoral partners across states.

In Bihar, the Congress got 70 seats as part of the RJD-Congress-Left alliance and won 19.

This was a significant drop from 2015 when the Congress had won 27 of the 41 seats it fought. The RJD emerged the single largest party in Bihar holding its ground while the Left posted stunning results winning 16 of the 29 seats it fought.

With the Bihar no-show, the Congress would find it tough to strike hard political bargains with the Left in Bengal and the DMK in Tamil Nadu in the next election cycle.

In Assam, too, the party would need to work overtime to find allies and redefine strategy especially after Asadudin Owaisi of the AIMIM demonstrated in Bihar that Muslim consolidation behind “secular forces” could be taken for granted.

In Assam, the Congress has often banked on AIUDF’s Badrudin Ajmal for consolidation of minority support.

Bihar results meanwhile hammer home Congress’ past performance as an alliance partner in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

In the 2017 UP polls, the Congress fought on 105 seats in alliance with the Samajwadi Party and won only seven.

Recently, in Maharashtra, the Congress contested 147 seats and won 44 in partnership with the NCP which fought on 121 segments and won 54.

Although the Congress did well in Jharkhand where JMM was its ally, the party remained a junior partner there.

Yesterday’s results could also signal potential challenges for Rahul Gandhi who was the principal star campaigner for the Congress in Bihar and singularly crafted the party’s anti-BJP offensive around COVID, the migrant crisis, joblessness and economic decline.

Gandhi’s anti-Prime Minister Narendra Modi narrative did not resonate with the voters and this could mean the resurgence of latent rumblings within the Congress against the party’s first family.

Already 23 leaders, who stirred the Gandhi pot recently by seeking reforms and elections to party posts, are waiting to make their next moves.

Bihar and MP results could well provide them with fresh fodder.

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