Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has faced bad news before. But it has never come with such regularity - a slew of cases for “dubious” land allotments, heckling by angry residents on his political turf, retorts by detractors within the party and allegations of rebellion during the Rajya Sabha election.
The developments over the past few months have not only raised questions about Hooda’s style of functioning during his days in power and blemished his image, but also indicate that things are becoming rocky for him.
First, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case against the two-time former chief minister and some government officials in May this year for allegedly “favouring” applicants said to be close to him in the allotment of 14 industrial plots in Panchkula.
The Enforcement Directorate has now booked Hooda, officials of Associated Journal Limited (AJL), publisher of the National Herald newspaper, and others under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in restoration of an institutional plot. The plot was restored to AJL despite objections recorded by officials in writing.
These cases, besides other inquiries being conducted by the CBI and the State Vigilance Bureau in some decisions made during the previous Congress regime, could not have come at a worse time for him. Hooda, who headed the Congress government in the state from 2005 to 2014, had complete control over the Haryana Congress with pliant leaders allowing him a free run.
Though Hooda continues to enjoy support of most of the 17 Congress MLAs and senior leaders, his dominance is under challenge. The rival camp, led by Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar and Congress Legislature Party leader Kiran Choudhry, has become more vocal and has been making forays into his political turf.
The two sides have been hitting out at each other in party meetings and on public platforms.
Hooda loyalists, rattled by rivals’ attempts to have more say in party matters and retorts, have rushed to the central leadership against Choudhry and Tanwar, seeking their removal.
While the internal bickering has left the party in disarray, these cases have given plenty of ammunition to his detractors, both within and outside the Congress.
The former CM’s super-sized problems had started when the Khattar government ordered registration of an FIR against him in the industrial plots case last year. He had to face embarrassment when furious residents heckled him in Rohtak, the epicentre of the Jat quota agitation, and kin of those killed shut doors of their houses for him in Jhajjar.
Hooda and his supporters blame “political vendetta” of the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government for the cases registered against him and deny any wrongdoings in these allotments, but pressure is mounting on him.