Winds of change in Bihar Congress: A new PCC chief in the offing

The Congress is all set to appoint a new Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee (BPCC) president to replace Madan Mohan Jha, according to sources in the party’s central leadership.

Jha’s meeting with former Congress president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on Thursday triggered talk of impending changes in the party in the eastern state. Jha had offered to step aside after his three-year term ended last September but the high command told him to continue.

“My term has ended. Moreover, I offered to resign more than six months ago. Even if I do not submit my resignation, the high command can replace me anytime. So, I do not know why there is this big talk about my resignation, ”the Bihar Congress leader told The Indian Express.

Sources in the state unit said that while Kutumba MLA Rajesh Ram, a Dalit leader, was the front-runner to take over from Jha, the names of senior leader Vijay Shanker Dubey and former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, who joined the party last year, were also doing the rounds.

Asked if Gandhi had discussed with him the names of candidates to take charge of the Pradesh Congress Committee, Jha said, “All that was not discussed.”

Jha is a two-time MLA from Manigachhi in Darbhanga district and was a minister in the Nitish Kumar-led Grand Alliance government. He was appointed to head the state Congress in September 2018, replacing working president Kaukab Quadri. But he could not get the party back on track, failing to appoint a full-fledged Congress working committee. The party has not had a full-strength working committee since Ashok Kumar Choudhary, the current state construction minister, was removed as state Congress president in September 2017.

Under Jha’s leadership, the Congress managed to win only 19 of the 70 seats it contested in the 2020 Assembly elections – it won 27 constituencies five years earlier – as part of the Opposition’s Grand Alliance. The party’s ties with alliance partner Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) also came under increasing strain as Congress Legislature Party leader Ajit Sharma kept criticizing the Tejashwi Yadav-led party after the state polls.

Earlier this month, the party contested the legislative council elections on its own and managed to win only one seat while the RJD emerged as the second-largest party. With four victories, the tally of Independents was more than that of the Opposition party.

Party insiders said that Jha, despite being a suave leader, did not have a statewide appeal and did not make a concerted effort to revive the Congress in Bihar.

After appointing Muslims, Dalits and Bhumihars to the top state party post in recent years, the central leadership had appointed Jha – the first Brahmin BPCC leader since former Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra 25 years ago – because of his loyalty to the Gandhis, party functionaries said . He was eclipsed in the state unit by more powerful leaders, including current Rajya Sabha MP Akhilesh Singh, they added.– With ENS Delhi inputs

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