It has been more than nine years since Rohtak strongman Bhupinder Singh Hooda took over the reins as the Haryana chief minister in March 2005. Not many hoped for a back-to-back tenure for a greenhorn in the art of governance and administration. But despite several handicaps, Hooda has been known to carry a lucky charm, a talisman which has helped him wriggle out of seemingly difficult situations.
His please-all approach, a forgiving attitude and accessibility make him stand out among politicians of his league. But his “soft approach” has often been blamed for the growing corruption and sloppiness in the governmental system.
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While Hooda cannot claim to be one of the most articulate and suave administrators, his long stint as the Congress chief minister has certainly helped him polish his confidence. One of his major achievements has been his ability to mollify agitators - be it the Jats seeking reservation or government employees.
As the CM, he can rightly take credit for ushering in a number of projects and institutions (many of the national level), apportioning abundant funds for several sectors, giving an unprecedented thrust to the power generation sector, bringing in better rail, road and Metro rail connectivity, and trying to give an impetus to the pace of development.
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However, where his government seems to have lagged is finishing off. The system moved at a rather dreary pace in the absence of any fear of punitive action, resulting in laggard implementation of schemes and projects. The doling out of countless sops and pacifiers has also put additional burden on the resources of the state and these liabilities will have an adverse impact on the state’s fiscal health.
SHORTAGE OF CRITICS
Bureaucrats would wax lyrical about Hooda’s kind and benevolent mannerisms and there was an acute shortage of his critics. The appointment of several retired officers on sinecure postings has lent credence to the fact. As one of Hooda’s fierce critics and former minister, Birender Singh had put it a couple of years ago: “The king should not only be loved but he should be feared also.”
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Also, Hooda’s political rivals, both within and outside the Congress, termed his development model laden with a regional bias. Rajya Sabha MPs Kumari Selja and Birender Singh have been critical of Hooda’s development model, alleging that the chief minister’s home turf Rohtak, Jhajjar and Sonepat were the biggest beneficiaries of his largesse as compared to other parts of the state. The chief minister, however, denies this.
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Another aspect where the government seems to have failed to repose the people’s confidence is the protection of minorities. Incidents such as the Mirchpur killings and the Bhagana rape case have smudged the government’s reputation, inviting criticism from even Dalit Congress leaders.
While Hooda seems to have focused on big-ticket projects, his government has not done much in attracting micro, medium and small-scale enterprises in the state. Also, his government is accused of indulging in unproductive expenditure on projects such as the Hansi-Butana canal - which is now mired in litigation - and failure to curb the aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses in the power sector.
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“The rollback of power tariff in the election year, despite fully knowing that the state power distribution companies were in the red, shows the ‘seriousness’ of the regime,” a former power sector official quipped.
While he executed a purported ‘winner’ by giving Jats reservation in jobs and educational institutions - the political gain of which is yet to be proved - it remains to be seen what political advantage can he accrue from his latest ‘masterstroke’ of establishing a separate gurdwara management committee for Sikhs in Haryana.
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Assembly constituency: Garhi Sampla Kiloi (Rohtak)
Education: BA, LLB
Assets (2009): Rs 1.1 crore (movable); Rs 1.6 crore (immovable)
Electoral record: Four-time MP from Rohtak, two-time Haryana chief minister
Style and image: Draws political clout from his proximity to 10 Janpath (Sonia Gandhi’s residence) and his home turf of Rohtak, where he remains an undisputed leader. Has the image of a soft administrator but remains politically sharp
Controversies: Land deals involving Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi; leasing of land in Gurgaon to Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust and subsequent extension of deadline for executing the project
Prominent detractors (within Congress): Kumari Selja, Birender Singh
Biggest achievements: Increasing power generation; bringing in several national-level institutions; allocating abundant funds for every sector
Failures/unfulfilled promises: Unable to control corruption and rein in bureaucracy; failed to take projects such as KMP expressway to its logical conclusion; not able to control dissension in the party.