Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda may have survived a challenge to his leadership, but there is no let up in resentment against him within the ruling Congress ahead of the state assembly polls as was confirmed with the resignation by power minister Capt Ajay Yadav from the cabinet on Tuesday.
Also with this, it is the image of the Congress in general and Hooda in particular, which has taken a beating, once more. Capt Yadav, who comes from Rewari (Ahirwal), is one of the veteran Congress leaders in Haryana and has been MLA for six times.
The internal bickering in the faction-ridden state Congress is only expected to intensify in the coming weeks, with AICC general secretary and Rajya Sabha member Birender Singh carrying on his no-holds-barred attack on the chief minister. Rebelling against the CM, Birender, who, like Hooda, is among top leaders from the Jat heartland of the state, is not only pushing for his removal, but has also declined to contest the assembly elections in case the party high command persists with the present set-up.
“The Congress will get a new life if Hooda leaves the party,” the AICC general secretary said at a workers’ meeting in Panchkula recently. Birender, who has had a fluctuating career in state politics, is learnt to have conveyed his stance to the central leadership without mincing any words.
Another party bigwig, who has expressed lack of confidence in Hooda and openly spoken against him, is former union minister and Rajya Sabha MP Kumari Selja. Though she had backed Hooda for the top job in 2005, the influential Dalit leader has been critical of his style of governance for quite some time, alleging neglect of her community and parliamentary constituency.
REGIONAL BIAS ALLEGED
The dissidents led by the two leaders have accused Hooda of regional bias in giving jobs and development, blaming these two factors for the party’s rout – the Congress lost nine of the 10 seats in the Lok Sabha polls in the state.
Before the parliamentary polls, former minister and sitting MP from Gurgaon, Rao Inderjit Singh had dumped the Congress, levelling similar charges, and joined the BJP on whose ticket he retained the seat.
If this was not enough, Hooda’s childhood friend, businessmanturned-politician Venod Sharma, who was the Congress MLA from Ambala (City), also rebelled against the party, snapping his ties of four decades, citing disparity in development and favours on regional or caste lines.
Though Hooda has denied charges of bestowing funds, jobs and projects only on his son’s parliamentary constituency of Rohtak, which, incidentally, is the only seat won by the party in the state, he has not been able to convince his detractors in the party.
The sparring is expected to intensify further in the coming weeks, especially at the time of ticket allocation, as the rebel leaders appear to be in no mood to tone down their public attacks on the chief minister or pay heed to the central leadership’s advice of not discussing such matters outside the party forums.