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Congress Removes Bihar Chief Ashok Choudhary, Could Split Party In State

New Delhi:  Ashok Choudhary, the Bihar Congress president who had become a sharp critic of his party in recent weeks, has been removed from the job, triggering speculation that the Bihar Congress might be headed for a split.

Last week, Mr Choudhary nudged the party to quickly take a call on his sacking amid escalation of friction between Congress lawmakers and the party’s ally in the state, Lalu Yadav.

On Tuesday, the Congress granted him his wish.

Ashok Choudhary has been relieved from the top party post in the state, the Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi announced in Delhi.

In response, Mr Choudhary said he welcomed the party’s decision.

“I have served the party with all the hard work and sincerity. This is the party’s decision so I welcome it,” Mr Choudhary said, but refused to answer any more questions.

He had earlier signalled his unhappiness at the way the party leadership had treated him, saying “you beat a child who failed but you’re slapping a child who secured 99 per cent marks”.

The 49-year-old Congress leader has been known to be close to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and had spoken against the Congress leadership in Delhi for not doing enough to save the alliance with Nitish Kumar’s party Janata Dal (United).

Once Nitish Kumar pulled out, Mr Choudhary had been nudging the party to distance itself from the tainted Yadavs too. But the Bihar Congress chief was berated for making the suggestion and then snubbed by keeping him out of Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with the party’s lawmakers earlier this month.

At these meetings, the lawmakers were reportedly asked for their views on removing Mr Choudhary from the leadership role.

Senior leaders of the Congress in Delhi have long suspected that Mr Choudhary was the ringleader of some 18 Congress lawmakers who have been upset about the collapse of the grand alliance that left the party out of power.

Congress leaders indicate this risk was very real.

It is unlikely that Mr Choudhary, or other senior party lawmakers would remain in the Congress to play second fiddle to the Rashtriya Janata Dal, particularly after Lalu Yadav’s latest taunt describing them as “chirkut (worthless)” and saying he only spoke to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.