The Congress high command on Wednesday night released its list of all 90 candidates for the Haryana assembly elections even as state unit chief Ashok Tanwar offered to quit after the party overruled his objection to re-nominate six legislators facing corruption charges in a change of land use case.
In another development, former Hisar MP Jai Prakash resigned from the Congress and announced that he would be contesting as an Independent from Kalayat in Kaithal district.
Congress sources said Tanwar, a former Youth Congress president and an aide of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, walked out of the party’s poll meeting in protest after he was told that the leadership had cleared the names of the six legislators for the October 15 elections. He had consistently vetoed their names in earlier meetings.
Health minister Rao Narender Singh and legislators Ram Kishan Fauji, Vinod Bhayana, Ram Niwas Ghorela, Naresh Kumar Selwal and Jarnail Singh are facing allegations of corruption after their names surfaced in the cash for change of land use (CLU) scam. Opposition party Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) of Om Prakash Chautala had released video clips purportedly showing these Congress leaders, including four MLAs, asking money for the CLU.
Haryana lokayukta Justice Pritam Pal has reserved his order on the matter and is expected to deliver the verdict anytime soon.
The sources said that Tanwar, a former Sirsa MP, was keen to assert his supremacy as the state Congress president and was trying hard to get assembly tickets for some of his loyalists such as Sanjay Chokkar, Kuldeep Soni and Tarun Bhandari. He was trying to have a say in the allocation of tickets in the assembly constituencies of Sirsa district and had opposed the candidature of Dr KV Singh from Dabwali and Ranjit Singh from Rania.
Tanwar later remained incommunicado and refused to answer phone calls even from party colleagues.
When contacted, Congress general secretary in-charge of Haryana Shakeel Ahmed feigned ignorance about Tanwar’s resignation. “I have no information about it. I am trying to contact him,” he said.
Tanwar later reportedly met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and offered his resignation, contending that there was no point in continuing on the post when the party had decided to ignore strong reservations even by a person like Rahul Gandhi.
A senior state leader told HT that Rahul had suggested that their names be dropped from the list as their re-nomination could cost the party dear as opposition parties would try to exploit the issue to their advantage. Citing the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections, he said the Congress suffered its worst-ever poll defeat mainly due to public perception.
However, the leader said chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had been insisting on their re-nomination, arguing that no charges were yet framed against them.
The Congress sources said that the leadership finally decided to go with Hooda’s choice, which was widely interpreted as a move to put the responsibility of winning the polls on the chief minister. They said that as Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee president, Tanwar has refused to sign the final list.
Meanwhile, district Congress president Panipat (rural) Jagdev Malik and his Jind (rural) counterpart Jasbir Deswal too have resigned from the party to protest the denial of the party ticket to them.
(With inputs from Chandigarh)