PATNA: Factionalism in Bihar Congress once again came to fore on Saturday as a majority of party MLAs owing allegiance to former Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee (BPCC) chief Ashok Choudhary abstained from a crucial meeting convened by the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sadanand Singh to discuss the "state's current political scenario" in the wake of incarceration of RJD chief Lalu Prasad in fodder scam case.
Congress has 27 MLAs in Bihar but the majority of them are loyal to Choudhary. They have been abstaining from the official meetings of the state Congress citing one or the other reasons even since Choudhary was removed from the post of BPCC chief on September 26 last year.
The Saturday meeting was convened by Singh after getting a formal approval from the AICC general secretary and party in-charge for Bihar C P Joshi. Despite being the senior most and nine-time MLA, Sadanand Singh personally telephoned most of the senior functionaries of the state Congress and party legislators requesting them to attend the meeting and express their opinion on the issues related to the state Congress' relation with ally RJD especially in the wake of incarceration of Lalu.
Though party stalwarts like former AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmad, former Kerala Governor Nikhil Kumar, former ministers Awadesh Kumar Singh and Madan Mohan Jha turned at the meeting, the majority of MLAs skipped.
Sources in the Congress said of total 27, only 10 MLAs turned up at the crucial meet which continued for three hours at the residence of the CLP leader.
Besides the CLP leader, the MLAs who were present at the meeting were Amita Bhushan (State Mahila Congress chief), Vinay Kumar Verma, Awadesh Kumar Singh, Rajesh Kumar, Bhavna Jha, Amit Kumar Tunna, Poonam Paswan, Siddharth and Bunty Choudhary. Majority of MLAs who abstained from the meeting are considered close to Ashok Choudhary.
Sources said the CLP leader informed in the meeting that Ashok Choudhary had told him that he was out of the state on a pilgrimage in Odisha hence he would not be able to attend the meeting.
Insiders in the party said, Choudhary along with half a dozen MLAs and one MLC had gone to Odisha and some other places on pilgrimage but he could have returned the capital had he taken the meeting seriously.
Presently the agenda at the meeting, the BPCC in-charge president Kaukab Quadri said Lalu's son Tejashwi Prasad Yadav had recently invited him at his residence. He said Tejashwi made a formal request to the State Congress for launching a joint agitation in the state after Makar Sankranti against the alleged failures of the Nitish government in Bihar and to oppose the incarceration of Lalu Prasad.
Majority of Congress leaders present at the meeting said that though Lalu and his party RJD had time and again helped Congress and its president Sonia Gandhi in her hours of crisis, they should not come in his support in the current scenario when he had been sentenced by a court in the fodder scam case. They were of the opinion that Congress should launch its separate agitation in Bihar against the alleged failures of Nitish government. They also requested for deferring the launch of the party's proposed 'Aamantran Yatra' from January 18 to anytime in February in the wake of the sweeping cold wave in Bihar.
Leaders like former Harkhu Jha suggested for calling one more such meeting of Congress functionaries and inviting all MLAs in the next meeting to take their opinion on the party's stand for launching joint agitation with the RJD.
After the meeting, the CLP leader Singh, however, claimed that Congress and RJD are united in Bihar and their alliance would continue as usual.