New Delhi: Congress on Sunday appointed a young dalit leader Ashok Choudhary, considered close to Rahul Gandhi, as the new PCC chief of Bihar, two and a half years after Mehboob Ali Qaiser resigned from the post following the drubbing in the last assembly elections. Congress President Sonia Gandhi has appointed Ashok Choudhary as president of the Bihar unit of the party, AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said.
43-year-old Choudhary was a Minister of Home in the RJD-Congress alliance coalition government in Bihar between 2000-2005 and is a "mahadalit", a sub-group among dalits which the ruling JD(U) has been wooing in Bihar. Qaiser had resigned after Congress suffered a major electoral setback in the 2010 assembly polls in Bihar when it won four seats compared to the nine in 2005 but was asked to continue on the post by the central leadership till his successor was appointed, leading to continuing speculation. Choudhary is a former MLA from Barbigha assembly constituency once represented by his father and senior Congress leader Mahaveer Chowdhary, a nine-time legislator who had served as Minister a number of times when Congress was in power in the state.
He is a relatively unknown face but age is on his side and his appointment is a clear indication that Rahul Gandhi is looking for a long-term solution for the party in Bihar which has been totally marginalised in the state after the rise of Mandal and Mandir politics. Though Qaiser had quit as PCC Chief soon after the 2010 assembly elections, the party was finding it difficult to find his replacement with a number of hopefuls lobbying for the post in the faction-ridden state Congress unit.
Among some of the leaders who were in the race for the post included CWC member Shakeel Ahmed, former CLP leader Ashok Ram, former PCC Chiefs Anil Sharma and Ramjatan Sinha. Former Youth Congress and NSUI president Prem Chand Mishra's name was also doing the rounds. One of the former PCC chiefs Sadanand Singh was sometime back appointed as the CLP leader in the State Assembly. While Sadanand Singh belongs to the OBC Kurmi caste from which Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also hails, the newly appointed PCC chief Choudhary belongs to Passi community. Welcoming his appointment as the new PCC Chief, Shakeel Ahmed said, "He is young and energetic. We hope he will take the guidance of senior leaders and take both the seniors and young leaders along. We wish him good luck in his endeavour."