Delay in finalising seat-sharing for the Bihar assembly elections adversely impacted the Mahagathbandhan's poll performance, senior Congress leader Tariq Anwar said on Sunday, asserting that the Congress must learn from the experience and complete alliance formalities well in advance for upcoming assembly polls.
Anwar, the party's general secretary and a veteran leader from Bihar, acknowledged that there were shortcomings due to which the party performed worse than other 'Mahagathbandhan' constituents and asserted that the high command was serious about an introspection as well as a thorough analysis of the results.
In an interview with PTI, Anwar said the Bihar poll results were "definitely below" the Congress' expectations and it was a setback to bag only 19 out of the 70 seats it contested. "There was an environment of change with enthusiasm among the common people for it, but we could not exploit that. We had the expectation that with the Congress fighting on 70 seats, it would win at least 50 per cent of the seats," the former Union minister said.
"Our government was not formed and we (the Congress) also have a responsibility in that. Going forward, our efforts will be aimed at strengthening the Congress and the Mahagathbandhan and we will make a strategy for it," he said. His remarks assume significance as several poll analysts have stated that the Congress dragged the Mahagathbandhan down as it fell short of the majority mark, with the NDA under Nitish Kumar's leadership emerging victorious in the polls by a narrow margin.
Anwar also said the Congress high command was ready for introspection and stressed the top leadership had given all possible support during the polls with former party chief Rahul Gandhi also holding many public meetings in the state. "But there have been shortcomings on our part otherwise we should have won 35-40 seats. So, whether there were shortcomings in organisation or campaign, all of that will be discussed and analysed and it will be ascertained as to why the Congress' performance was not at par with other Mahagathbandhan partners," he said.
"We want that discussions be held with those involved in this election, our candidates and district Congress committees in Bihar and only then we can reach a conclusion," the 69-year-old leader, who has won Lok Sabha polls multiple times from Bihar's Katihar, said.
Asked if delay in firming up the Mahagathbandhan alliance and the seat-sharing arrangement hurt the poll performance of the Opposition coalition, Anwar said, "Yes, I remember that Rahul Ji had said in July itself that we should finish the process of firming up of the alliance and other formalities."
"Whatever the reason, that did not happen and you are right there was a lot of delay in finalising the alliance and it was sealed when the election was very near," he said. If the formalities had been completed earlier, then maybe the Mahagathbandhan would have gotten the advantage in the election campaign, Anwar said. Alliance contradictions need some time to be ironed out and we did not get that time, he added.
On rumblings in the Congress over ticket distribution, Anwar said the party is assessing its shortcomings.
He also said the Congress needs to learn quickly from its mistakes as elections are due in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry next year for which the party should be battle-ready. "We should be ready beforehand and I agree that if we have to go for alliances then the formalities of those alliances should be completed as soon as possible," he said.
On All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen denting the Mahagathbandhan, Anwar said if any political party wants to contest "we cannot stop them", but there is a "common understanding" that AIMIM's role is in a way to help the BJP. "If we would have moved to protect our standing in Seemanchal and carried out our party's activities early, then AIMIM would not have succeeded there. With the coming of AIMIM certainly, the secular parties have been hit and if we look at it they have won five seats but would have damaged the Mahagathbandhan on 15 seats," Anwar said.
Asked if lack of clarity over party presidency was hurting Congress, he said the party's poll panel under Madhusudan Mistry has already started the process for getting a full-time president. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, an AICC session could not be called, but once the situation stabilises the process will be completed next year, he said.
Anwar also hailed Rahul Gandhi for setting an example for other leaders by stepping down after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls defeat. "There is no dispute on Rahul Gandhi (for the choice for presidency), question is whether he wants to take it up," he said.
RJD's Tejashwi Yadav-led Mahagathbandhan won 110 seats, 12 less than the magic figure of 122 in the 243-member Bihar Assembly. The NDA won 125 seats.