Campaign trail: Hooda starts quest to wrest power back from BJP in Haryana - Hindustan Times
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Campaign trail: Hooda starts quest to wrest power back from BJP in Haryana

By, Kurukshetra
May 18, 2024 06:30 AM IST

At his Chandigarh residence, Hooda is surrounded by party workers, supporters and his advisers. His scheduled start of 10 am is delayed as he patiently listens to his workers and sort out things. In between, the AAP candidate, Sushil Gupta who is waiting for him at Ladwa grain market calls one of his aides to check his schedule.

Much is at stake for former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The 2024 Lok Sabha election could prove to be a defining moment for the Congress leader who has been out of power for a decade now.

Much is at stake for former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The 2024 Lok Sabha election could prove to be a defining moment for the Congress leader who has been out of power for a decade now. (HT Photo)
Much is at stake for former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The 2024 Lok Sabha election could prove to be a defining moment for the Congress leader who has been out of power for a decade now. (HT Photo)

A reasonably good performance by the Congress would open avenues for the party to take a third shot at power under him. And that is what the two-time chief minister is aiming at as he traverses the length and breadth of the 10 Lok Sabha constituencies spread over 90 assembly constituencies.

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Having canvassed for Congress candidate from the Ambala Lok Sabha constituency, Varun Chaudhary, the former chief minister made a night halt at Chandigarh only to venture out next morning to campaign for Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from Kurukshetra Lok Sabha constituency, Sushil Gupta. As per a seat-sharing arrangement for INDIA bloc, the Congress is contesting on nine seats in Haryana and the AAP is contesting on one.

At his Chandigarh residence, Hooda is surrounded by party workers, supporters and his advisers. His scheduled start of 10 am is delayed as he patiently listens to his workers and sort out things. In between, the AAP candidate, Sushil Gupta who is waiting for him at Ladwa grain market calls one of his aides to check his schedule.

The former chief minister accompanied by his former officer on special duty, Mahender Chopra boards the Land Cruiser SUV and is escorted to his first destination of the day by a police pilot car. His phone keeps on ringing and the former chief minister tries to answer each call. In about 90 minutes, the cavalcade hits the Ladwa grain market.

It’s time to leave the air-conditioned cabin and sweat it out. As soon as he deboards the vehicle, Hooda is mobbed by a motley crowd, garlanded and shoved as he is directed to the dais by security personnel who form a human ring around him. AAP candidate, Gupta and Congress leader, Ashok Arora follow him.

“I have toured the entire Haryana. Let me ask you all. Whom do you want to form the government in the state?” Hooda asks the gathering. The drift of his address is to veer the gathering towards the prospects of the Congress party in the upcoming assembly elections to be held later this year.

“Haryana mein Congress ki sarkar kaise banegi?’’ he first asks, and then replies in the same breath: “Jab Sushil Gupta ko MP elect karoge.”

The former CM tells the gathering that under the Congress rule Haryana till 2014 was a leading state in terms of per capita income, per capita investment, employment, law and order situation and achievements in sports. “During the BJP rule, the state is number one in unemployment, inflation and crime. Youngsters are opting to risk their lives using donkey route to go abroad in search of jobs,’’ Hooda says.

He continues getting mobbed by crowds at the next destination, Thol. Former Congress MLA, Anil Dhantori who is waiting at the Thol anaj mandi to welcome him loses his mobile device in the melee. Conch shells and ‘pugrees’ offered to the former chief minister are stuffed at the back of his car as he gingerly climbs on the podium.

Hooda promises to increase the old age pension to 6,000 on coming to power in the state. “We will provide 600 units of free electricity to the poor, cap cooking gas prices at 500, provide 100 square plots to the poor and implement old pension scheme for the employees,’’ the Congress leader assures.

“More than 700 peasants were killed in the farmers agitation. This Lok Sabha election is being fought by the INDIA bloc to save the Constitution. If the Constitution is saved, then democracy gets saved and so will be your rights,” Hooda says.

Before Hooda concludes his address, he tells the audience: “Ek baat tum meri man lo. Ek main tumhari maan loonga. Sushil Gupta ko MP bana kar bhej do Parliament mein, sarkaar tumhari main bana doonga (Let’s agree on a quid pro quo. You elect Sushil Gupta as an MP, and I will ensure that you have a Congress government in Haryana.”

Having run the ruling BJP close in 2019 assembly polls despite losing all 10 Lok Sabha seats in the general elections held a few months earlier, the Congress leader once admitted that the 2019 assembly poll outcome was rather unexpected in view of the Lok Sabha results and a fully conscious Congress could have done much better in the assembly polls. Evidently, he is not willing to leave much to chance this time.

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Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Congress leader

‘BJP has no narrative to convince electorate’

On the role of JJP and INLD in denting Congress prospects

It is a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP. The JJP and INLD are only vote splitters. People will not vote for them.

On BJP losing the support of three Independent MLAs

This is a minority government. It does not have the moral authority to continue in office. The chief minister should resign, and the assembly should be dissolved.

On BJPs move to change the chief minister

The BJP has changed the face of the government only to cover its deficiencies. It won’t make any difference. ML Khattar and Nayab Saini are guru-chela. People have decided to change this dispensation.

Issues influencing the elections

The BJP is ruling at the Centre and in the state. Look at their track record. They do not have any achievement in terms of infrastructure projects, power plants, roads and highways, higher education institutions. They actually do not have any narrative to convince the electorate.

BJP’s claims of corruption-free administration

It is the most corrupt government. Multiple scams which took place during the BJP rule stand testimony to this. Everyone knows how blatantly they indulged in indiscriminate and illegal sand mining even changing the course of Yamuna river.

Digitisation initiative

Digitisation can be beneficial for people. But the initiatives– Parivar Pehchan Patra, Property ID web portal and Meri Fasal, Mera Byora are not in public interest.

Anti-incumbency factor

It is a non-performing government. Every section of society is unhappy with the BJP government. The BJP acted in a tyrannical manner by committing atrocities on protesting farmers digging nails in the roads to stop them from carrying out peaceful protests.

Protests being faced by BJP and JJP leaders in villages

It is a manifestation of public anger undoubtably. I am not in favour of BJP-JJP leaders not being allowed to enter the villages. Rather people should stop them from entering Parliament and state legislature. ‘Inko vote ki chot se maro’.

Ticket distribution

The Congress party got surveys conducted and tickets have been distributed on merit.

Congress factionalism

Every party worker, including MLAs and candidates, should put their best foot forward. The party is working cohesively.

Claims of fair and transparent recruitments

The obvious needs no evidence. Bribe money was recovered from a Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC) official. The BJP government in fact has sold jobs. There are so many incidents when question papers have been leaked. There are more than two lakh posts lying vacant for years.

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