Patna: As Bihar gears up for the coming assembly polls and battle lines are being drawn, it promises to be a triangular affair with Congress deciding to contest all 243 seats on its own.
The other two camps are the JD(U)-led NDA and the RJD-LJP alliance.
Congress has never made it alone since 1995, though it did enjoy power as an ally of Lalu Prasad`s RJD twice.
In 1995 when undivided Bihar witnessed a one-to-one fight between the party and Lalu Prasad-led Janata Dal, Congress contested in all but one out of the 324 seats and secured just 29. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar`s fledgling Smata Party was formed just before the polls and BJP was not a force to be reckoned with.
In the next polls the grand old party contested all the 324 and won 23 cutting into the votes of the BJP. It went on to support the Rabri Devi government and reaped good benefit by having 22 ministers.
The remaining Congress MLA was made the speaker.
The tough fight given by then BJP-JD(U) alliance came to nought as the minority government led by Nitish Kumar fighting shy of confidence vote quit and the so-called secular forces rallied behind RJD, leading to the formation of the RJD-Congress government.
In the two subsequent assembly elections in February 2005 and October-November 2005, which saw a brief of period of central rule, the Congress fought in a virtual alliance with
the RJD from 84 and 51 seats, respectively, but won only 10 and nine seats. Kumar led the NDA to power in November 2005.
AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi has kickstarted the campaign on a quick trip to Bihar. "We will bring Congress government in both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh ... Bihar will
progress only under a Congress government," he had said.
Congress is eyeing the Muslim votebank in the state and has raised questions about Kumar`s secular credentials accusing him of maintaining a double face on the relationship
with BJP and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi, the party said, did not campaign in the last Assembly polls in Bihar but shortly after the election was over Kumar was sighted with Modi holding his hands at an NDA
rally in Punjab. Moreover, Kumar had continued as union minister in the Vajpayee government even after the Gujarat riots.
It has also questioned the Nitish Kumar government’s track record in implementing minority-related programmes and utilisation of funds.
Kumar has hit back holding the Congress responsible for the state`s backwardness. ``The Congress has neglected Bihar for 63 years and has not done justice to its people.``
Prasad has on the other hand alleged that Congress was contesting all the 243 seats in the bifurcated state to allow NDA reap electoral benefits. ``It is not a potent force, but is just trying to get its foothold, he says.
What has come as a shot in the arm for Congress is that its vote percentage has shot up to over 13 percent in the last Lok Sabha polls from a meagre five per cent in the 2005
The figure further rose to about 15 percent in last year`s by-elections to 18 assembly constituencies.
The party is buoyed with the success of its campaign as of now with its several central ministers criss-crossing the state highlighting the alleged failure of the Nitish Kumar