By sacking Ashok Choudhary, Congress may have staved off split in Bihar
Congress high command's decision to sack Ashok Choudhary from the position of chief of the Bihar unit of the party is likely to help the party achieve several objectives in one stroke. Averting what looked like an imminent rebellion among party ranks, is one of them.
Though it was in the works for quite some time, the final change of guard in Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee (BPCC) came abruptly. No official notification was sent out announcing the sacking, when the decision was taken in the evening on September 26. Choudhary himself said in his press conference later that he heard about the decision from the media.
Even in early media reports, there was a lot of uncertainty about the several decisions that All India Congress Committee (AICC) had reportedly taken. It was confirmed much later that Choudhary was sacked, even as no one was named as his full-fledged successor. Interestingly, BPCC was also temporarily dissolved and a little known Muslim leader of the party in the state, Kaukab Quadri, was appointed working president.
The party's media coordinators sent one of these notifications on WhatsApp, announcing Quadri's appointment. This letter, signed by CP Joshi, General Secretary in-charge for Bihar, appeared to have been prepared in haste. This was evident in the numerous mistakes in the letter. Even the party's name was spelt wrongly.
The haste appears to be party explained by a dilemma that the party was facing in Bihar. Choudhary was being watched for about two months now, ever since the party high command received reports that he was planning to lead a motley group of Congress legislators in the state to desert the party and cause a split.
Bihar Congress sources told Catch that Choudhary himself precipitated the crisis in the past few days, by becoming increasing vocal against the high command and issuing statements against senior party leaders in media interviews. Soon, his sacking became imminent but the question of appointment of his successor was also proving to be a challenge for the party.
Former MP and former Union minister Akhilesh Singh was believed to be the front-runner. Strangely, a mysterious letter signed by Congress General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi had surfaced on 19 September that announced appointment of Singh and three others as Working Presidents of the BPCC.
However, sources told Catch that Singh is not liked by a large number of Congressmen in the state, who have been unhappy at the prospect of his appointment. Given these concerns, AICC decided to zero down on an underdog whose appointment will take everyone by surprise and whose name most will find hard to oppose.
As a Muslim leader with a largely clean record and no family connections with the Congress, Quadri fit the bill perfectly and his name was announced. Sources said this move punctured whatever plans any rebel Congressmen might still have had about leaving the party on some or the other pretext.
This essentially means that Congress has been able to stave-off a prospective rebellion. In fact, Choudhary himself is likely to face problems now in resigning from the party and joining any other outfit. He was in any case unable to gather 18 MLAs to form an independent bloc in the Vidhan Sabha which would have dealt a big blow to the Congress.
With even the few legislators who were under his influence silenced, he doesn't have anything now to offer to any other party in return for joining it. Quadri, on the other hand, may gradually be asked to continue even after the present crisis is over. Sources said high command is in favour of allowing him to continue helming the party in the state and not bring in Singh for now.