The surprise nomination of Lok Sabha (LS) MP from Ambala, Kumari Selja (51), for a Rajya Sabha (RS) berth from Haryana is fraught with political undertones. A seat for her in the Upper House of Parliament is a foregone conclusion as polling is unlikely to be held for the two RS seats.
A Dalit leader, Selja is known to enjoy proximity to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. By nominating her to the RS, the Congress high command seems to have shielded her from the risk of contesting the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and face the strong anti-incumbency undercurrent. The four-time MP won the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Ambala by a small margin of 14,570 votes.
Her nomination to the Upper House is also significant in view of her known hostility with Haryana chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The Ambala MP, who has publicly accused Hooda of regional bias in terms of development and employment, has been able to impress the party high command of the possibility of an "in-house sabotage" during the Lok Sabha elections.
It is also a setback to the chief minister who was trying hard to get a Rajya Sabha berth for state Congress president Phool Chand Mullana. "By preferring Selja to Mullana, the party high command has tried to send out a message to the state Congress leadership, including the chief minister," said a Haryana Congress leader. On the flip side, the high command's nod to Selja does not bode well for the state Congress as it will certainly embolden the dissidents.
"Selja, her protégé, Ishwar Singh and Rajya Sabha MP Birender Singh have been vocal in their criticism of the state Congress leadership, including Hooda. The Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) has time and again brought this to the notice of the party high command, without any success. The high command seems to have indicated who it is listening to," another Congress leader said.
Selja to be Haryana Congress chief?
Kumari Selja, who shifted from the Sirsa LS seat to Ambala in the 2004 parliamentary elections, on Tuesday morning resigned from the union Cabinet, giving rise to speculation that she could well be in the reckoning for the role of Haryana Congress president. Her resignation clearly means that the party high command wants her to work in the organisational set-up. It is a matter of time before Haryana Congress president Phool Chand Mullana, also a Dalit leader, is moved out. Earlier, the name of Sirsa MP Ashok Tanwar, another Dalit leader, was in the reckoning for the post of PCC chief.
Selja fact file
Daughter of Chaudhary Dalbir Singh, a four-time Sirsa MP and former union minister
Hails from Parbhuwala village in Hisar district
Elected to Lok Sabha in 1991 and 1996 from Sirsa (SC) parliamentary constituency
Shifted to Ambala (SC) parliamentary constituency in 2004 and won the 2004 and 2009 polls
Union deputy minister in human resource development ministry in 1992
Union minister of state in human resource development ministry in 1995
Union minister of state (independent charge) in housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry in 2004
Union cabinet minister, tourism; and housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry in 2009
Union cabinet minister, social justice and empowerment in 2012