After Andhra Pradesh — where the Congress weakened itself by creating a controversy on the Telangana issue — some elements in the party seem busy trying to do the same to its government in Haryana. In Punjab, Amarinder Singh has shown why he is the best bet to take on the Akalis given the warm reception he got after the Supreme Court turned down his disqualification. The Congress is yet to take a decision on appointing a new Pradesh Congress Committee chief in the state.
In Delhi, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has been in the midst of a controversy regarding her government’s decision not to lower power tariffs. In J&K, the party has managed to keep afloat and seems oblivious of the fact that there is no Kashmiri Pandit in either the two Houses of the assembly or the two Houses of Parliament for the first time since Independence.
In Maharashtra, the Ashok Chavan government is going through spells of occasional instability. It is perhaps only in Rajasthan where there seems to be no threat to the Congress government from any quarter. The point is that the party leadership needs to review its policies regarding various states.
Coming back to Haryana, the unfortunate incident at Mirchpur village in Hissar district where two Dalits were burnt alive on April 19 by people of another community is being used by the opponents of Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to corner him. What is surprising is that instead of the Opposition taking up the issue in a big way, it is the Congress leaders who are using this incident to take potshots at the CM. Incidentally, Hooda has acted on a war footing to contain any political damage to the party.
The Hooda detractors even tried to give a political colour to Rahul Gandhi’s unannounced visit to Mirchpur to re-assure the Dalits. They have now started a campaign to create an impression that Hooda’s days are numbered. The incident is being kept alive to create an impression that Dalits are not safe in Haryana and the dominant Jat community is committing atrocities on them.
The Congress high command has acted cautiously and ensured that no wrong message about its concern for the weaker sections should go out. On the whole, the state government has acquitted itself very well.
Politically, Haryana is sensitive right now and to bring about a change at the top could lead to the fall of the government. In the 2009 elections, the Congress became the largest party in the state with 40 seats, Om Prakash Chautala’s INLD got 31 seats, BJP five, Bhajan Lal’s Haryana Janhit Congress six and the rest were Independents.
By virtue of the support from Independents and five out of six of Bhajan Lal’s party, the Congress formed the government under Hooda with a support of 53 MLAs in a House of 90.
It is to Hooda’s credit that he has bean able to get a sizable section of the Jats on the side of the Congress and was able to cobble the numbers to ensure the formation of his government for another term. Other than Chautala, there is no other leader in Haryana who can challenge Hooda’s supremacy. But some elements in the Congress feel that they can replace him without realising that Hooda’s exit at this stage could spell doom for the party in the state.
Similarly, in other states, the Congress high command has to identify leaders who can deliver and those who are creating mischief. The approach of party functionaries weakening its own units or governments has to be discontinued. There is still time for instance to save Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra from slipping away from the Congress.