Ahead of crucial Congress meet, Bihar socialist urges Sonia to give up 'putra moh'

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Patna, Dec 18 (PTI) Senior RJD leader and veteran Bihar socialist Shivanand Tiwary on Friday called Rahul Gandhi a 'reluctant and uninspiring' leader and urged Congress president Sonia Gandhi to overcome 'putra moh' (weakness for her son) in deciding her political successor.

Tiwary, who is currently a national vice president of the RJD founded and headed by Lalu Prasad, made the explosive statement with the remark that he was aware that he could 'irk the leadership of the very party of which I am at present a member'.

'But, I have reached a stage where I do not always care about party diktats and choose to speak my mind.....Sonia Gandhi is going to hold an important meeting tomorrow. I wonder if it is going to yield any result,' the former Bihar minister and ex-Rajya Sabha member said in his statement.

The Congress president is scheduled to interact with a host of party leaders, including the 'letter writers' a term currently in vogue to describe those who had written to her recently stressing on the demand for an overhaul of the party structure.

Tiwary expressed his admiration for the 'spirit of sacrifice' demonstrated by Gandhi in 2004 when she chose not to become the prime minister despite having the mandate.

'I had a chance to meet her first when Lalu was a member of the Union cabinet. I was struck by the serenity on her face. She had revived her party which was left by Sitaram Kesri in a bad shape. Her foreign origin had become a point of contention within her own party, what to speak of the BJP,' Tiwary said.

'Even a tall leader like Sharad Pawar severed his ties on the issue of foreign origin. But Sonia took it all in her stride. Today, however, she appears to be dragging herself....managing the party affairs despite poor health,' he added.

'The choice before Sonia Gandhi today is not between her son and the party but her son and democracy itself. The Congress, which even now is more potent than any regional party, is capable of taking on a hegemonic BJP.

'But Rahul Gandhi has always come across as an anichhuk (reluctant) leader. He simply cannot inspire his supporters,' Tiwary said.

This is the second occasion for the veteran leader to have opened a front against Rahul Gandhi since the assembly polls in Bihar in which the Grand Alliance put up a good fight but fell short of majority.

While the RJD emerged as the single largest party in the Bihar assembly and the Left, dismissed as a spent force, registered a stunning strike rate, the Congress came to be seen as the weak link, having won less than 20 seats despite contesting in 70.

Tiwary had, soon after the results were out, lambasted Rahul Gandhi for taking time off for just about six rallies in contrast with Prime Minister Narendra Modi who addressed a dozen.

He was also critical of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who was named as one of the star campaigners for the polls but never visited the state during the elections.

Congress leaders had reacted with predictable indignation, accusing Tiwary of 'ideological inconsistency', referring to his past association with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U) which has been a BJP ally. PTI NAC BDC BDC