‘Nitish has finished his innings; Bihar results will come as a surprise’

Interview | Dr Akhilesh Singh, Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee president

Akhilesh Singh [Image source: X] Akhilesh Singh [Image source: X]

The Congress history is best reflected in its party office in Patna, Sadakat Ashram. Its foundation was laid by Mahatma Gandhi in 1921. Rajendra Prasad, the first president of India, made it his retirement home. The party office is now longing to see its glory days again. The WEEK caught up with Congress state president Akhilesh Singh, who earlier served as a minister of state in the Manmohan Singh government, and is now a Rajya Sabha member. Singh expressed his hope that results of the general elections from the state would lead to a revival of the Congress party.

What is your assessment of the Bihar elections ?

One will witness surprising results in Bihar. Those who thought that alliance between Nitish Kumar and BJP will secure majority like 2019 will be in for a surprise. We contested three seats in the second phase and we will win them. Candidates of our alliance partners—RJD and Left—will also win their seats.

You claim BJP will change Constitution after winning 400 seats. The BJP says Congress is misguiding the people. PM Modi has assured it won’t be changed.

When they can easily form government with 272 seats, they got 303 in 2019. If they don’t want to change the Constitution, then why they are claiming to get over 400 seats. One needs 3/4 majority to change Constitution, that’s why they are asking for 400 seats. But, let me tell you, no one is taking them seriously. People are now laughing at their claims, saying that if Modi comes to power then price of petrol and diesel will cross Rs 400.

Congress has made certain promises in these elections. BJP relies on Modi guarantee. Is this election a contest between two guarantees ?

Modi’s guarantee does not carry much weight. Congress and Rahul Gandhi’s guarantees are different from theirs. Rahul ji has travelled over 4,000 kilometers from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and then again from Imphal to Mumbai. He listened to people and their aspirations, which is reflected in the guarantees. Moreover, Rahul Gandhi is giving the guarantees by attesting them with his signature. Congress president Malikarjun Kharge has also given his signature. Our workers are taking it to the people and getting them to register their names for women and youth promises. Over Rs 16,000 crore have been written off by the Modi government for the rich. If they can do it for the rich, why can’t others give money to the poor? Our Constitution was formed on the premise of a welfare state. Congress always stood for the poor and farmers.

Caste census and reservation were the two issues that were highlighted when Nitish Kumar was with you. What will be the change now?

It is his problem that he has changed sides, but we are where we are. The BJP didn’t want the census. Even when we were not with Nitish, the Congress representative was there in the all-party meeting with the prime minister.

Nitish Kumar has changed sides so many times, but none of the parties have found an alternative to him?

Others may be thinking so, but I don’t think so. Nitish Kumar is now history. He has finished his innings. This is the last election he is contesting. He will not be there, neither will be his party.

How will the assembly elections, next year, be impacted?

I am not a psephologist. But I can say, BJP alliance will lose badly.

The 2019 gave a huge mandate to the NDA alliance. BJP says that duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and CM Nitish Kumar will repeat that mandate?

Though we lost the 2019 elections, look at 2020 assembly elections. Same alliance existed then. The only difference between the two alliances was a gap of merely 12,000 votes. If we leave out the North Bihar, be it Seemanchal and Mithanchal, where we lost, the difference elsewhere was very less, only 6000 votes. RJD emerged as the biggest party. This is there for everyone to see. As the election is proceeding, the BJP factor is on the wane.

If we look at the Congress, it has not been able to recover its ground since 1990s. How can the party be revived in the Hindi heartland?

Wait for the election results, you see the change. Even the opinion polls have said that the Congress will gain. Rahul Gandhi’s leadership has been accepted by the youth, farmers, workers and women. The way Rahul Gandhi has campaigned from road to parliament, it shows he is the only leader in the country who is fighting Modi. He never gave up even when he was questioned in the ED office. His acceptance is going up, while Modi’s acceptance is coming down.

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