Congress strongman in top gear after fresh ‘josh’ of supporters, demolishes BJP’s devp plank
Once politically powerful and now out of power in Haryana, the Jat community Congress workers are swarming around Smain’s community centre in Tohana assembly segment of Fatehabad district. They have occupied every available space in the vast forecourt. Dressed up in traditional attire with full-length shining staff in hand, all of them have been eagerly waiting for former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Even as Rohtak strongman and Jat leader Hooda is behind the schedule by an hour, the crowd comprising the “bidi and hookka-puffing” agriculturists sit patiently.
Finally, a chopper lands at the nearby sports stadium. Ishwar, a singer of the ‘ragini’ team entertaining the crowd, announces Hooda’s arrival. And the crowd that has gathered surprisingly in big strength goes out of control. Everybody wants to catch glimpse of Hooda and rushes towards him.
Somehow Hooda reaches the stage. His supporters, packed beyond capacity in and around the venue, erupt as Congress’ election song — “Hooda sahib ki takkar mein, khattar pad gaya chakkar mein... Hooda sarkar banavega... paahle chalai metro, ebke rail chalavega, sarkaar banavega, hooda sarkar banavega...” is played to give a rousing reception to the Congress legislature party (CLP) leader.
People present in the crowd, including a few women, get up and dance in ecstasy. It goes on for 10 minutes. Hooda is visibly happy at what he says the newly gained “josh” of Congress supporters of party nominee Paramvir Singh.
The size of the gathering not only at Smain but also in Narnaund, Ratia and Bhattu where Hooda addressed public meetings on October 15 and the enthusiasm of the crowd waiting quietly for hours has given the much-needed fillip to the Congress’ campaign while setting alarms bells ringing in overconfident BJP camp.
“I felt satisfied at the number of people who had gathered at Narnaund. But you have come here in much bigger number. All of you are sweating in this afternoon heat and waiting patiently for me. Your sweat is like a sacred water of the Ganges. It will not go waste and it will yield a good result,” Hooda says, who is on whirlwind poll tour of the state. He has been flying across the state covering near eight assembly constituencies every day.
The rally over and Hooda is back to board Grand Agusta twin engine chopper (A-109 S) being piloted by Col RP Maurya and Col PBS Sarah. His former officer on special duty (OSD) MS Chopra and Satish, personal security officer (PSO), and Col Maurya help Hooda inside the four-seat flying machine.
“Did you notice how thrilled the crowd was? I am getting identical response everywhere. At Narnaund, people had turned up in huge numbers. Now wait and see how big and responsive the crowd will be at Ratia,” Hooda says as the chopper takes off leaving behind clouds of dust and the onlookers rushing for cover.
How many seats Hooda is expecting to win? “Congress is likely to get absolute majority and form the government,” he says. “In past three days, I have covered 25 segments from Naraingarh to here and I am happy with the response of the people,” says the former CM.
Which are Hooda’s pockets of strength? “BJP got maximum seats along the GT Road belt in last elections. Now, that belt is supporting us. I have covered all the seats along the GT Road and response of people is beyond our expectation,” Hooda claims as the chopper lands at Akal Akademy Ratia.
From Ratia reserve seat, the party has fielded Jarnail Singh, a former MLA.
Here too, Hooda almost repeats what he said earlier and is back to fly. But he makes it a point to ask with a twinkle in the eyes: “So, how big was the crowd?” “It is getting bigger and better,” he answers himself.
The next stop is Bhattu and before the chopper takes off, Hooda gives some instructions to his aide Chandveer Hooda, who has been chasing him by road.
“This government has failed on all fronts. This is a non-performing government. They are expert in event management. Every section of the society is unhappy with them. That is the main issue. People trust me. That’s why I am getting overwhelming response in rallies,” Hooda, the former two-term CM, says.
The next venue is Bhattu where Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar and former athlete Krishna Punia, Rajasthan MLA, are present. The size of the crowd again is mystifying. This despite the fact that Hooda reaches here an hour late.
“Bhupinder Singh Hooda,” roars a party worker into the microphone and the crowd screams, “zindabaad” on cue. The new found spring in Hooda’s feet cannot be missed as he emerges to address party workers at a rally in Bhattu of Fatehabad where party nominee is former chief parliamentary secretary Prahlad Singh.
As Jakhar goes on to deliver a lengthy speech, Hooda is edgy as he is getting late. Jakhar is advised to cut short his address. When his turn comes to address, Hooda declares: “Your presence indicates the mood of the voters across the state. Congress is coming back to power.”
The shouts and applause get louder. Bhattu rally over, and he rushes to take off to Kharkhoda in Sonepat. There is another rally. Hooda is in a hurry.