The Congress will not project Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and his Haryana counterpart Bhupinder Singh Hooda as CM candidates in the upcoming assembly elections, even if they survive challenges to their leadership for the moment.
In case the party high command decides against replacing Hooda and Chavan since only a few months are left for the assembly polls, the two won’t be the party’s face in their respective states, Congress sources told HT. Maharashtra and Haryana go to polls in October-November this year.
The move is aimed at controlling open dissidence in both states and placating the rebels, who are demanding a change of guard.
The usual practice in the Congress is to keep the leadership issue open since there are generally several CM aspirants, and let the elected legislators authorise the Congress high command to take a decision. On many occasions, however, incumbent CMs are unofficially projected as the party’s face during polls, such as in the case of former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit.
Congress general secretary in-charge of Haryana Shakeel Ahmad also hinted at keeping the leadership issue open. “Barring exceptional cases, Congress doesn’t a prime ministerial or CM candidate in advance,” he told HT.
In Haryana, senior leader Choudhary Birender Singh on Sunday hit out at Hooda, saying he was the “most unpopular Congress CM ever” in the state. Singh also made it clear that he won’t contest elections under Hooda’s leadership. The party, however, has ruled out a change of guard.
Hooda, too, appeared defiant, saying there was no move to replace him. “As long as I have the blessings of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, support of party MLAs, and trust of the people, I will continue to serve the state as CM,” he said in Ballabgarh.
In Maharashtra, Chavan’s fate continues to be under doubt with state industries minister Narayan Rane saying he “can’t work” under Chavan. The Congress step also seeks to mollify ally NCP, which is upset with Chavan’s style of functioning.