While Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday lashed out at Nitish Kumar, accusing him of embracing communal politics for “personal political gains” and declaring that he knew about this “planning” for “three or four months”, many in his party wondered why the Congress did not intervene effectively in that case to prevent the split.
Many in the Congress also wondered whether Rahul was misled by the party’s Bihar leadership into believing that while Nitish was unhappy, he may not take the drastic step of going back to the NDA.
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Stating that Nitish had joined hands with the Congress to fight communal politics in 2015 Bihar Vidhan Sabha elections, Rahul said, “For personal politics Nitishji has now embraced the same people. This is the problem with India’s politics. In politics you get to know what is in (the) other person’s mind. Clearly, I got to know that Nitishji was planning this…to say the truth, we knew this for three or four months that this planning is on.”
He said, “This is the problem with India’s politics — people go to any extent for their selfish interests. There is no rule, no credibility… for power they go to any extent.”
Congress leaders were caustic. Many said Nitish used his meeting with Rahul on Saturday to project a picture that the Congress vice-president was willing to compromise on the issue of corruption. They recalled that Nitish had earlier asked Rahul openly why was he not setting the agenda for the Opposition. The import left unsaid, they said, is that Rahul is dithering and not taking the initiative.
Arguing that the Congress leadership should have intervened more effectively and acted like a national party, a senior party leader said, “The fact that he (Nitish) brought up the issue of the Congress vice-president symbolically tearing the ordinance brought (by the UPA-2) to save Lalu Prasad was leaked to the media. The projection was that we condoned corruption — we should not forget that corruption scandals had brought down the UPA…it is not easy to shake off that tag.”
Another leader said, “We should have intervened — told RJD that Tejashwi Yadav should quit, and conveyed to Nitish that his flirtations with BJP was sending a wrong message…. I don’t know what we did.”
Sources said a Bihar MLA, who is also an AICC functionary, had written to Rahul even before Nitish met him in Delhi last weekend and apprised him of the seriousness of the tug-of-war. The MLA is learnt to have urged Rahul for effective intervention to save the alliance.
The party appeared divided on why it did not act in time. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “What can we do if somebody is bent on leaving the alliance?”
But the party’s communication department head Randeep Surjewala said the Congress believed in Nitish Kumar. “We respected him to follow the principles that he swore by when he left the BJP in 2013…. Even when he was hobnobbing with both sides, we chose to believe that Nitish is mature enough.”