The year 2015 initially provided a semblance of optimism for two-time chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda as he hit out at the first-ever BJP government of greenhorns in Haryana. But as the year drew to a close, Hooda found himself at the centre of a series of probes being conducted into alleged acts of omission and commission during his tenure. 2016 would be crucial for him as the fate of these inquiries could well decide the political course of the state.
Q. Three CBI probes have been ordered by the BJP regime in 2015 against alleged irregularities during the nine-year Congress rule. You have also been named in a case registered regarding irregularities in the allotment of industrial plots in Panchkula. Tough year for you?
A. I would not say so. On the contrary, I got an opportunity to raise the people’s voice and expose the state government on issues such as irregularities in paddy procurement and conducting of girdawari to assess crop loss. People have entrusted us with a role – that of being an opposition and we are fulfilling that responsibility.
Q. But you must be rattled after the initiation of CBI probes?
A. Not at all. One has to take decisions in public interest and I have never done anything wrong. We will fight the cases legally and all these will fall flat.
Q. Factionalism and infighting in the Haryana Congress continues even after losing the assembly elections badly. State Congress chief Ashok Tanwar, former minister Capt Ajay Singh Yadav and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Kiran Choudhry are on a different wavelength vis-a-vis you. How will you assert your dominance?
A. I don’t know what others think and say. At least I don’t say anything. Such allegations of factionalism in the Congress are more of fiction than reality. As per the organisational structure of the Congress, only Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are the leaders. Rest are only office-bearers who keep on changing.
Q. It seems that the Congress’ stock has been on the decline nationally and it is affecting the state scenario as well. How will you galvanise this jaded outfit?
A. People had very high hopes from the BJP when it formed the government at the Centre and in Haryana. But gradually, people have become disgruntled. The results of Delhi and Bihar assembly polls and several byelections which the BJP lost badly indicate its declining popularity. You will see, the Congress will emerge victorious in the 2017 Punjab assembly polls.
Q. The ruling BJP in Haryana has made corruption by your government as a main plank to hit out at you. Justice Dhingra Commission of Inquiry, several vigilance cases and even the high court has set aside allotments made by you. What’s your defence?
A. The BJP government does not want to do anything for public welfare. They are wasting time in only witch-hunting. I also ran a government for nine years but never worked with vendetta at the back of my mind. They are trying to divert people’s attention from their failures.
Q. You have alleged political vendetta by the Khattar government. But many of the cases, such as the Panchkula allotments, seem to be open-and-shut cases. How will you tackle these matters?
A. None of my relatives is a beneficiary in these allotments. There can be an associate or a friend. Even those in the BJP are friends with me. I have been a twotime chief minister, leader of the opposition and I come from a political family. So, I have lot of acquaintances all over. That does not mean that I have done something wrong or illegal. All the Panchkula allotments were done on merit. The BJP government is in such a haste to initiate inquiries against me that they don’t even want to wait for the outcome of pending court cases in these matters. All three cases — Manesar land release, Raxil purchase and Panchkula allotment are sub judice matters.
Q. There has been speculation about you forming a regional party sooner or later. What do you have to say?
A. I am a Congressman to the core. Such speculation is the brainchild of the media.
Q. Prime Minister Narendra Modi came for your nephew’s wedding, setting off rumours about your access to the saffron party. Was it a deliberate political posturing?
A. I have a personal equation with Narendra Modi. It was not at all political. We have been in touch for over a decade. We often speak with each other.
Q. But you vowed never to share the dais with Modi after the 2014 Kaithal hooting incident.
A. But only on a political stage. See, it was a politically-managed incident. Modi, however, later invited me for tea.
Q. What’s going to be your resolve for 2016?
A. I will not get cowed down by anyone and will continue to raise people’s voice. I come from a family of freedom fighters who were not subdued even by the British.