Cong eyes Speaker’s post in Bihar Assembly

New Delhi: Congress is eyeing the Speaker’s post in Bihar Assembly along with ministerial berths amid clear indications that the party will participate in the new government led by Nitish Kumar, who is set to take oath on November 20.

The Grand Alliance of JD(U)-RJD-Congress trounced the BJP-led NDA in Bihar in the polls, winning 178 of 243 seats.

Kumar is the chief ministerial face of the combine.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi is meeting all the 27 newly-elected party MLAs and five MLCs on November 19 to discuss the issue of participation in government and other related matters.

Congress Legislature Party (CLP) had after a meeting on November 14 in Patna authorised party chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul to chose a CLP leader and also take a decision on whether to join the Kumar-led government.

The Congress Vice President, who has been hailed as “architect” of the Grand Alliance by the Congress, had already held confabulations in this regard with AICC General Secretary In-charge for Bihar, C P Joshi and Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ashok Choudhari on November 13.

Sources say that the party could pitch former CLP leader Sadanand Singh to be made the Speaker in the new dispensation.

The dominant view in the party is that Congress should participate in the government in the state, where it is out of power since 1989 in the wake of ‘Mandal’ and ‘Mandir’ surge.

The party was once a dominant force in the state.

The view is that the victory in 27 seats this Assembly polls has enthused the party cadres and participation in the government will serve as a further morale booster for the party.

However, a few members also feel that the party can achieve its objectives better by supporting the Kumar government from outside than by joining it.

A party leader speaking on the condition of anonymity said that past experiences show that Congress participation in government headed by other parties have damaged it.

Congress had contested the 2005 Assembly polls in the then undivided Bihar alone and won 23 seats out of 324 it had contested. When the state was bifurcated, Congress was left with 12 MLAs in Bihar and 11 went to Jharkhand.

After a stint in the RJD-led government it won nine seats out of 243 it contested in 2005, while in the 2010 elections, it put up its worst-ever performance, managing only four seats.

When asked whether Congress should participate in Nitish Kumar government or not, party General Secretary Shakeel Ahmed, a senior leader from Bihar who was a minister from Congress in the RJD-led government in the past, said,”My personal view is that we should participate in the government.”

He was, however, quick to add that a decision on the issue will only be taken by the general secretary in-charge concerned for the state and PCC chief Ashok Chowdhury.

It is not yet clear whether Sonia or Rahul will attend the oath-taking ceremony as party managers’ only refrain is that Congress leaders will attend the event.