Cong of­fice cut off from Patna’s po­lit­i­cal hotspot

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - Front Page - Rahul Kar­makar rahul.kar­[email protected]­dus­tan­

PATNA: What Ashoka Road and Ak­bar Road in Delhi are for BJP and Congress, Patna’s Beer Chand Pa­tel Marg is for all po­lit­i­cal par­ties that mat­ter in Bi­har. It is the state’s po­lit­i­cal heart.

The Congress has no place in this heart be­cause Sadaquat Ashram, its head­quar­ters with a view of river Ganga, is 5km north. Ma­hatma Gandhi had es­tab­lished it in 1921 on the land do­nated by his as­so­ciate, Maulana Mazharul Haque.

The his­tory has a post-1990 gloomy chap­ter that the Congress wants rewrit­ten. Han­dling the script are re­gional al­lies JD(U) and RJD.

The JD(U) head­quar­ters is on the west­ern flank of BCP Marg as one turns south from the In­comeTax round­about. Di­ag­o­nally across the road is the RJD head­quar­ters al­most ad­join­ing that of the BJP.

The pre-poll Grand Al­liance (GA) has vir­tu­ally erased the road be­tween the RJD and JD(U) head­quar­ters. But there are too many streets and lanes be­tween them and Sadaquat Ashram.

“Phys­i­cal dis­tance is no bar­rier when minds meet,” Bi­har PCC spokesper­son Su­man Ku­mar Mal­lik says.

The Congress, he adds, is the small­est of the three mis­matched cogs in the GA wheel. But they will roll “smoothly together” to stop the BJP in the Ra­jya Sabha.

The Congress is con­test­ing 41 of th­ese seats while JD(U) and RJD are con­test­ing 101 each.

Congress lead­ers say it is not a bad bar­gain for a party that, de­spite hav­ing ruled Bi­har the long­est, has no lead­ers of the stature of those of its al­lies and ri­vals. But they ad­mit they have been al­lot­ted seats that are the tough­est to win.

“There’s no point ig­nor­ing the re­al­ity. We can start re­build­ing in Bi­har if we get close to 50% of our seats,” for­mer Congress MLA Harku Jha says.

The party is wary of its 2010 per­for­mance. It had won only four seats with 214 of its 243 can­di­dates los­ing their de­posits.

“We are cam­paign­ing for each other to en­sure max­i­mum seats and keep the com­mu­nal forces in check,” JD(U) pres­i­dent Ba­sishtha Narayan Singh says.

But three chunks of vot­ers have moved away from the Congress in the last three decades: the Mus­lims, the back­ward castes and the up­per castes.

In­dia’s first Pres­i­dent Ra­jen­dra Prasad spent his last days at Sadaquat Ashram. He was a Kayasth, an up­per caste that is a potent vot­ing force. Therein lies the irony for the Congress.

Congress head­quar­ters HT

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