Two-time Ambala Congress MP Kumari Selja, 51, has left her constituency disappointed. Several development projects, including ones that she had initiated in her earlier Lok Sabha term, remain in limbo due to her political differences with Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Despite a Congress-led government at the Centre and her party in power in the state, Selja could not realise her dream projects mainly due to the non-cooperation of the Haryana government.
Whether it was her rail project to link Yamunanagar with Chandigarh via Sadhaura, or the setting up of a university and medical college for north Haryana (comprising Ambala, Panchkula and Yamunanagar), she says there was a “go slow” from the state government.
She recently moved to the Rajya Sabha and does not plan to contest LS polls this time.
The construction of the `10-crore solid waste management plant at Patwi village in Ambala was completed in 2008, but it is not operational. Six years on, the project has not got environment clearance as Selja’s rivals have allegedly incited local residents against it. Costly machinery is lying unused, resulting in waste of public money.
In another example of the Hooda government’s “unhelpful” attitude, soon after Selja laid the foundation stone of a sewerage treatment plant at Rangia Mandi, Ambala Sadar, in 2007, it turned out that the land on which the plant was to come up was disputed. The matter is in court. There was public pressure on her to have the Ambala Sadar land, excised from the cantonment in 1977, declared freehold; but the Hooda government sat on her demand. This, despite her raising the issue at a rally in the presence of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi as well as Hooda.
The state government did not utilise the `4.5 crore that she had got sanctioned from the Centre, while her demands for a war memorial in Ambala, and a science centre and an irrigation project in Naraingarh were ignored. Despite an approval for setting up a bottling plant to generate jobs in the area, the Haryana government did not provide land for it.
Local industrialist Anil Jain says the foundation for a ‘technology upgradation centre’ was laid at Saha last October but work is at standstill. “Despite Selja’s best intentions, her projects were scuttled to discredit her,” he says.
Gurnam Singh, a farmer leader, says Selja deserves credit for saving 1,852 acres at Panjokhra village which the state government was out to acquire for setting up an industrial model township (IMT). “She led our movement against the acquisition of fertile land, and got the project shelved with the intervention of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi,” he says.
Local residents give Selja full marks for making Ambala her home despite her busy schedule as a union minister. They say she was available to attend to them during her weekend visits. “Obstacles by her political rivals notwithstanding, Selja was active socially and was frequently seen at public functions. She mingled with people freely,” says Ambala resident Surinder Goyal.
Neelam Ohri, a public school principal, says that despite being labelled an outsider — Selja had represented Sirsa twice in the Lok Sabha before contesting from Ambala in 2004 — she now has a formidable votebank. “So much so that now no Congress candidate can succeed from Ambala without her blessings,” she says.
Bailed out to Rajya Sabha?
Selja’s move to the Rajya Sabha recently left the Hooda camp stumped. The chief minister was pushing for former state Congress chief Phool Chand Mullana’s candidature when news of Selja’s RS nomination from Haryana came as a bolt from the blue.
Selja’s confidence notwithstanding, political observers believe the going would not have been easy for her in the Lok Sabha elections from Ambala this time. They see her nomination to the Upper House as a bid by the Congress high command to shield her from the anti-incumbency factor, particularly in the face of pending projects.
Her failure to bring any significant projects to the constituency has invited criticism from the opposition BJP. Former BJP MP Rattan Lal Kataria, whom she defeated in 2009, claims Selja neglected the constituency. Ambala Cantt MLA Anil Vij goes a step further. “Just look at the condition of roads and civic amenities in this town. Selja didn’t do anything to improve things despite being a union minister for two terms. She knew that people were angry and that she would be routed in the elections this time, so she took the easy route to Parliament by getting elected to the Rajya Sabha,” he says.
(Inputs by Dev Sarup Mathur, Ambala)