Patna, March 1: Ahead of three bypolls in the state next month, the Congress suffered a split in the Bihar Legislative Council, after former state party chief Ashok Choudhary and three other members of the Congress Legislature Party in the Upper House were recognised as members of the ruling Janata Dal (United).
The four Congress MLCs - Ashok Choudhary, Dilip Choudhary, Ramchandra Bharti and Tanweer Akhtar - yesterday officially sought recognition as MLCs of the JD(U), the council's officiating chairman Haroon Rashid said. "The application of the four Congress members has been accepted," Rashid told PTI. The Congress earlier had six MLCs in the House.
The four leaders later called on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at his official residence and formally joined the JD(U). Kumar, also the JD(U) president, welcomed the MLCs into the party. State JD(U) president Bashishtha Narayan Singh, national general secretary R C P Singh and other party leaders were present on the occasion.
Acting state Congress president Kaukab Qadri said the two remaining MLCs and 27 party MLAs "are firmly with us and there is no possibility of more legislators leaving the party". But Congress MLAs Sudarshan Kumar and Munna Tiwari expressed support to Choudhary. Sudarshan said, "Choudhary is like my elder brother and I stand by him wherever he is."
Tiwari said the party's position would be further down with the exit of Choudhary and others. To a question whether they too are contemplating leaving the party, they said only time will tell what will happen in future. Bypolls for Bhabhua and Jahanabad Assembly seats, and Araria Lok Sabha constituency would be held on March 11.
Qadri had yesterday said the four MLCs were expelled from the party. Ashok Choudhary, along with the three MLCs, yesterday announced they would quit the party and accused AICC general secretary and Bihar in-charge C P Joshi of having treated them as "objects" that were supposed to be "used and thrown".
"Joshi was kind of pushing me out of the Congress," Ashok Choudhary had alleged. Infighting within the state Congress had come to the fore on Sunday when Choudhary and Qadri engaged in a spat.
Qadri had criticised Choudhary, his predecessor, for blaming Joshi for not including him (Choudhary) in the list of star campaigners for the bypolls. Choudhary hit back, questioning Qadri of his contribution in the Assembly elections held three years ago.