The Congress on Wednesday asserted that it will strengthen its moribund organisation in Bihar, drawing lessons from the experience in recent by-elections where it was dumped by Lalu Prasad's RJD, its old but domineering ally.
AICC general secretary Tariq Anwar made a statement to this effect in reply to questions from journalists about the party's future course with respect to its ties with the RJD, in the light of Prasad giving up his earlier belligerence and showing a willingness for rapprochement.
The by-elections taught us the lesson that we need to work on our organisation in Bihar. We are going to do that in the two and a half years that remain before the country goes to polls, the former Union minister said.
It is, however, for our top leadership to take a call on any future realignment with the RJD. A decision would be taken at an appropriate time, keeping in view the political scenario across the country, said Anwar, who has been a several term MP and had headed the state unit of the Congress in the 1980s when Bihar was ruled by the party.
By-elections were held for a couple of assembly segments last month. The Congress was hopeful of contesting these with the RJD, fielding its own candidate in one and supporting the latter in the other. However, the RJD unilaterally announced candidates for both seats which led to much acrimony.
The Congress performed badly in both seats, though the RJD, which had been defending its decision on the ground that it alone could win, failed to wrest either seat from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U).
Anwar also criticised Kumar over the failed prohibition, which has been in the news in the wake of recent hooch tragedies that have claimed more than 40 lives.
As Gandhians, we in the Congress are always in favour of discouraging consumption of intoxicants. However, Nitish Kumar acted in an abrupt manner when a gradual approach would have been better, said Anwar, referring to the complete ban imposed on sale and consumption of liquor in 2016.
He alleged that the state was now losing excise revenue, while those involved in liquor trade were amassing fortunes.
We would like the chief minister to review the liquor ban and take a proper decision taking all political parties into confidence, he said.
Anwar was also asked whether he favoured withdrawal of the APMC Act of Bihar, whereby mandis were done away with many years ago, in the light of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre withdrawing the contentious farm laws.
That would be preferable. Though now, we think the government will come up with new, appropriate farm laws applicable to the entire country. Farming and agriculture are state subjects. But, the recent farm laws turned everything topsy turvy, he added.
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