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Infighting within the Bihar Congress came to the fore here today when the members of rival factions reportedly came to blows at a meeting convened by the Pradesh Congress Committee that also passed a unanimous resolution declaring Rahul Gandhi as the next AICC president. The incident prompted the party leadership to order an inquiry into the fracas amid demands for the expulsion of former state unit chief Ashok Chaudhary who leads one of the feuding groups. Angry scenes were witnessed at the Sadaqat Ashram, the party's state headquarters, where a meeting of newly-elected district and block-level office bearers was held. The meeting was attended, among others, by the acting BPCC president Kaukab Quadri, the Congress legislature party leader in Bihar Sadanand Singh and former Union ministers Shakeel Ahmed and Akhilesh Prasad Singh. Meanwhile, at the meeting held here today, the BPCC also unanimously passed resolutions requesting the high command to appoint a full-fledged state unit chief and to declare Rahul Gandhi as the next All India Congress Committee president. Scores of party workers were seen emerging out of the state headquarters with their clothes torn and faces and limbs bruised, in an obvious indication of the unruly scenes witnessed at the meeting. Taking a serious note of the "entry of unwarranted elements", Quadri announced setting up of "a five-member team to inquire into today's incidents" even as his predecessor Chaudhary, who has been sulking ever since his recent removal from the post, boycotted the meeting along with his supporters. Chaudhary, believed to be close to Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar, has been questioning the holding of a meeting of the office-bearers claiming that the list of the district and block-level representatives was yet to be released by the party. Quadri, however, has been maintaining that he was acting as per the directions of the party high command. Chaudhary, on his part, also charged that the party's national general secretary in-charge of Bihar C P Joshi had facilitated the entry of "hoodlums" and "outsiders" in the state Congress. However, Chaudhary was flayed by the members of the rival faction as its leaders like AICC member Raj Kumar Rajan, former state minister Arjun Mandal and former BPCC general secretary Nagendra Kumar Vikal issued a strongly-worded statement demanding his "expulsion from the party". They also alleged that at today's meeting, Chaudhary's supporters had raised slogans "in praise of Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi" and accused former state unit chief Chaudhary of having "used foul language against the party high command and Rahul Gandhi". They also demanded that an FIR be lodged against Chaudhary and his supporters for allegedly indulging in violence at today's meeting. The state Congress has been facing a crisis since the fall of the "Mahagathbandhan" government, in which the party was a junior partner. Chaudhary, who was a powerful minister in the Nitish Kumar Cabinet, has often been accused by the rival faction - considered more comfortable with Lalu Prasad's RJD - of trying to engineer a split which may benefit Kumar.
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