Even if Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and his Maharashtra counterpart Prithviraj Chavan survive the challenge to their leadership for now, the Congress will not project them as CM candidates in the coming assembly elections in the two states.
The move is aimed at placating the rebels who are demanding change of guard in both the states.
Dissidence against Chavan and Hooda has, in fact, come out in the open. In Haryana, senior leader Birender Singh on Sunday hit out at Hooda, saying that he had become the “most unpopular Congress chief minister ever” in the state. Birender also made it clear that he would not contest the elections, due in October, under Hooda’s leadership.
Maharashtra industries minister Narayan Rane too had openly stated that he “can’t work” under Chavan. While the Damocles’ sword continues to hang over Chavan, the party has ruled out any change of guard in Haryana.
On his part, Hooda said there was no move to replace him. “As long as I have the blessings of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, support of party MLAs, and the trust of the people, I will continue to serve the state as the chief minister,” he said in Ballabgarh.
Congress sources told HT that in case the party high command decided against replacing Hooda and Chavan, given that there are just a few months left for the polls, the two won’t be projected as the party’s faces.
Usually, the practice in the Congress is to keep the leadership issue alive — as there are several claimants for the CM’s post in a state — and let the elected legislators later authorise the Congress high command to take a decision. But on many occasions, an incumbent CM is unofficially projected as the party’s face during elections. Congress general secretary incharge of Haryana, Shakeel Ahmed, also hinted at keeping the leadership issue open. “Barring exceptional cases, Congress does not project a PM or CM candidate,” he said.