leaders scale down expectations in Bihar
Monday November 15, 2010 07:32:22 PM,
Prashant Sood, IANS
As Bihar prepares for its last phase of polls, many Congress
leaders say these elections will be more of a confidence-building
exercise for a party that was virtually absent in the state and it
should win around 20-30 seats in the 243-member assembly.
Those who have taken part in the campaign for the Oct 21-Nov 20
polls say initially the party was expecting to win 50 seats, but
they have now scaled down their expectations for various reasons.
"The basic idea is to gain the confidence of the people that the
Congress is back in Bihar to protect their interests. Though the
people of Bihar are shining everywhere in the country, people are
not shining within the state. The purpose is to infuse confidence
that the Congress is there to stand by them," party general
secretary B.K. Hariprasad told IANS.
Hariprasad, who headed the screening committee for selection of
candidates and has mostly been in Bihar since the party announced
its nominees, said the possibility of a hung assembly could not be
A senior Congress leader said: "We will definitely win 20 to 30
seats but the number can go up if voting is not polarised along
Congress leaders say while shortcomings in the selection of
candidates is one of the reasons why the party would not achieve
its desired potential, they blame the absence of charismatic
leaders at the state level and the poor shape of the party's
The party had sought to revive its traditional Brahmin-Muslim-Dalit
(BMD) support base. Its leaders said the party gave tickets to 47
But a party leader said: "More tickets should have been given to
people from the OBC (Other Backward Classes) category who
constitute about 32 percent of the population.
"Also, an impression went around that some people with connections
and money had been able to get tickets at the cost of genuine
He said the campaign was being managed by central leaders as the
state Congress unit had not been able to get its act together.
"Leaders from AICC (All India Congress Committee) are coordinating
the election campaign," he said.
Party leaders also say the elections spread over a month had
worked to the advantage of Nitish Kumar who was able to personally
visit most of the constituencies.
"Had elections been held in a shorter span, the Congress and the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may have benefited as they have more
campaigners. However, the six-phase polls have been beneficial to
Nitish Kumar," a Congress leader said.
Party leaders also say there are many constituencies where the
Congress flag has not been seen for almost 10 years and the party
has a lot of ground to cover. The Congress, which had a tie-up
with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in the 2005 assembly polls,
had contested 51 seats and won only nine. And it is certainly
confident of an improved tally as the party has gone it alone this
It organised helicopter visits by its leaders to almost all
constituencies. Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi has also held
election rallies in all phases of polling held so far.
Shakeel Ahmed, a former Bihar Congress chief, said the traditional
vote base had started gravitating towards the party as these
voters had dissociated themselves from the RJD.
"Party workers are feeling excited as they are carrying their own
flag. They did not feel good when the party was in alliance with
the RJD," Ahmed said.
Party leaders said while Nitish Kumar enjoyed a positive image,
his Janata Dal-United (JD-U) MLAs faced anti-incumbency factor om
their constituencies. They claimed BJP MLAs were also facing
"anti-incumbency" and that party's tally would go down from the
2005 assembly polls.
In the last polls, the JD-U won 88 seats, the BJP won 55 and the
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