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Trouble shooter, Man Friday, crisis manager. That’s the sort of image young Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala (47) has acquired over the last few years as a cabinet minister.
Surjewala, who was once perceived to be a potential rival of chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, became his most trusted lieutenant and crisis manager over the years. His role in fact gradually changed from an adversary to an ally as he helped Hooda overcome a number of challenges.
Be it inside the Vidhan Sabha or outside, Surjewala was the voice of the government, tirelessly defending the government on controversial issues and silencing the political opponents in a belligerent manner. The treasury benches in the assembly heavily depended on Surjewala’s articulation and persistence during assembly sessions as he would take the attack to the opposition camp. He also played a crucial role in the establishment of a separate Gurdwara management committee for Haryana, drafting the contours of the legislation and devising a strategy to go about.
Known to be an assertive minister who could have his way, Randeep was known to overrule officers often and push his way through. His proximity to chief minister probably made him the most powerful minister in the cabinet, the closeness had its pitfalls. The number of his political adversaries — within and outside the party — increased.
His trouble shooting engagements would also mean that he was able to devote less time to his departments and his constituents. He has a real worry at hand as during the recent Lok Sabha polls, the Congress candidate from Kurukshetra, Naveen Jindal trailed by about 13,000 votes from Surjewala’s constituency, Kaithal.
While Surjewala remained a confidante of the chief minister, he would not hesitate to speak his mind when required. A recent example was his opposition to the government’s move to increase the retirement age of government employees from 58 to 60. The minister who was vocal during the cabinet meeting expressed his dissent over the issue in unequivocal terms.
Often he was also put in the role of an emissary by the CM– be it to mollify an agitated Gopal Kanda, to hold talks with protesting Jats squatting on railway tracks or to hold dialogue with protesting employee unions. His stint as public works minister not only helped him augment the road network in his own constituency Kaithal, he also became one of the most sought after ministers chased by party MLAs for getting their works done.
Before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Surjewala got a chance to show his oratorical skills at the national level when he was appointed as a Congress spokesperson. Another important responsibility of manning the Congress poll war room in Delhi was also entrusted to him by the party high command, indicating a rise in his political stock.