The Congress on Sunday flew all its MLAs in Bihar to Hyderabad, where the party is in power, ahead of the February 12 trust vote in the state. The party has said it is wary of the BJP’s attempts to split the party. In an interview, state Congress president and Rajya Sabha MP Akhilesh Prasad Singh talks about why the MLAs have been sequestered, seat-sharing talks in the state, and why he thinks that Nitish Kumar’s exit from the INDIA alliance “is good in a way”.

We have to be cautious if we have to stop the (Nitish Kumar) government from winning the trust vote. There is huge anger among their MLAs. But they want to prove the majority at any cost. You must have seen in Jharkhand also that all the Opposition MLAs stayed together even after the oath-taking of the Chief Minister (Champai Soren). So, we are taking all precautions. The way the BJP operates, we also have to be cautious.

But sequestering the MLAs and taking them to Hyderabad also sends a message that the party doesn’t have trust in its MLAs.

We have complete trust in our MLAs. In fact, it was their suggestion to stay together.

But some time ago we heard some of the Congress MLAs, seven to eight of them, were unreachable.

When I heard about that, I called all of them to Purnea (where Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally). Bhupesh Baghel had come to Bihar. So it was a false claim. When Ashok Choudhary was the state Congress president and the late Sadanand Singh was the CLP leader, they tried to break the party. But not even one Congress MLA switched sides. Yes, one or two MLCs went. Now the situation is different. I am the PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) president.

But all the MLAs did not turn up in Purnea.

Barring one, every MLA was there. Out of 19, 18 were there. Siddarth Saurav (Bikram MLA) could not come as he was unwell.

Festive offer

Now that Nitish Kumar has left the INDIA bloc, you will have to rework the seat-sharing arrangement. Have the talks begun?

We will start discussions after the trust vote. You must understand who is scared. The Jharkhand CM was arrested. The Opposition has 44-45 MLAs. But the new CM was sworn in after two days. Nitish Kumar was allowed to take oath within hours after he resigned. In Jharkhand, there was uncertainty for 48 hours. When all the MLAs reached the airport to fly out, the information came that the oath would take place the next day. That is one part.

Within three days after taking the oath, the Jharkhand government is seeking a confidence vote today (it won the vote). In Bihar, on the other hand, Kumar still has not taken the floor test. It was first said that the trust vote would take place on February 5, then changed it to the 10th and now it is said it would take place on the 12th. So who is scared and who is in a dilemma, you can understand.

Do you think there are problems in the BJP and the JD(U) and they are not confident?

What do you think? If there were no problems, why was the floor test pushed to the 12th? In Jharkhand, we did not seek a different date.

Is the Congress confident of getting more seats under the new arrangement on seat sharing? Will there be a repeat of the 2019 formula?

The Congress will get its legitimate share. We are confident. In 2019, the Congress contested nine seats. My son contested on the RLSP (Rashtriya Lok Samta Party) symbol. So, we contested 10 seats. Now, Nitish Kumar has walked out. In 2019, Upendra Kushwaha, Jitan Ram Manjhi, and Mukesh Sahani too were there. All of them are not with us. So, we have to rework the arrangement.

Are you trying to bring back Kushwaha or Manjhi?

It is natural to bring all those who are against the BJP. Hum logon ki kunba bada ho (May our clan grow).

Does that include Kushwaha?

Kushwaha, Manjhi, whoever is uncomfortable there. I think Chirag Paswan will also be uncomfortable there with Kumar’s re-entry.

So, are the doors open for all of them?

Naturally, the doors are open.

Tejashwi Yadav could not attend the Purnea rally of Rahul Gandhi. The Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra will re-enter Bihar. Have you invited Tejashwi again?

On February 15, the yatra will enter Bihar. We are organising a huge rally at the Gandhi Maidan in Aurangabad. Tejashwi will come.

The exit of Nitish Kumar, the arrest of Hemant Soren, Mamata Banerjee’s decision to contest alone in West Bengal, and Bhagwant Mann’s announcement that the AAP will go on its own in Punjab — not a happy situation for the INDIA bloc.

The Congress leaders of Punjab are also not very enthused about an alliance with the AAP in the state. Like in Kerala, the Left and the Congress will contest against each other. But whoever wins will be in the INDIA alliance. Jahan gadbadi honi ho gayi. Par kuch cheez achche ke liye hota hai (Where things had to go wrong, they have. But some things happen for the good). But what happened in Bihar is good in a way.

Why are you saying that?

The same grand alliance comprising the RJD, Congress and Left had almost defeated the BJP-JD(U) in the Assembly elections. The difference in total votes was just around 5,000. Since then, the situation has changed. The people of Bihar are seeing his mental state, they understand.

Are you confident of the grand alliance’s chances in Bihar in the Lok Sabha polls?

We will get more seats than the BJP and the JD(U). The situation is in our favour. Overall, the perception of the INDIA alliance may have dimmed a bit but in Bihar the situation is different. Rahul Gandhi’s yatra, for instance, got a huge response in four districts of Bihar.

By 111 Tech

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