Congress keeps suspense going over presence at INLD’s Kaithal rally
Linked directly to the presence of Congress in Kaithal rally will be the possibilities of this bonhomie graduating into an electoral alliance with the INLD ahead of Lok Sabha and Haryana Assembly elections due next year
Despite Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) making overtures of friendship and publicly announcing its willingness to embrace the Congress, the suspense continues over the Congress attending INLD’s “Samaan Diwas” rally on September 25. The rally is being organised to mark birth anniversary of former deputy Prime Minister Chaudhary Devi Lal, the founder of the INLD, and to resurrect the party which has been battling erosion in its mass base.
Linked directly to the presence of Congress in Kaithal rally will be the possibilities of this bonhomie graduating into an electoral alliance with the INLD ahead of Lok Sabha and Haryana Assembly elections due next year.
However, former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who controls the levers of the party in Haryana, is opposed to an electoral tie-up with the INLD. Hooda, the Rohtak strongman and Congress Legislature party (CLP) leader, says that “Congress in Haryana is competent enough” to dethrone the Bharatiya Janata Party without any alliances.
All eyes are set on the Congress as most of the constituents of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), of which Congress is the largest party, have confirmed their participation.
The presence of frontline INDIA bloc leaders on one platform will be a shot in the arm for the INLD, which has been out of power since 2005, and is fighting for survival. Bihar chief minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar, NCP’s Sharad Pawar, Bihar deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury and Derek O’Brien of Trinamool Congress are expected to attend the rally.
Until Thursday, there was no clarity if Aam Admi Party (AAP), another constituent of the INDIA bloc, will attend the rally.
“I am already in Delhi and perhaps in a day or two, I shall be able to meet Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and extend invite for the Kaithal rally personally,” said INLD MLA Abhay Chautala, adding that he was yet to meet Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), the breakaway faction of the INLD, and a junior coalition partner of the BJP in Haryana, will hold “Kisan Vijay Samaan Diwas” rally in Rajasthan’s Sikar on September 25 to mark the birth anniversary of Chaudhary Devi Lal. Through this rally, the JJP will sound poll bugle in Rajasthan, where the party is planning to contest assembly elections in an alliance with the BJP.
On the other hand, banking on the political legacy of his grandfather Devi Lal, Ellenabad MLA Abhay Singh Chautala has been pulling all the stops singlehandedly to make Kaithal rally a grand success.
INLD has lost four consecutive Assembly polls since 2005, with its vote share coming down to 2.44% in Assembly elections. The party’s vote share was 1.9% in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Analysts say INLD’s willingness to ally with Congress as well as AAP is solely aimed at helping itself bounce back after the party suffered a body blow when Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) was formed, following a split in the Chautala clan.
A political analysts said the absence of Congress in Kaithal rally will be a setback for the INLD and the anti-BJP INDIA bloc in Haryana will become irrelevant if Congress avoided alliance with INLD and AAP and decided to go solo in the polls.
“But where is the invitation to attend the rally in question? We have so far not received the invitation...let them first send the invite, then the party will decide,” said Aftab Ahmed, Congress’ deputy leader in the Assembly.
Cong-INLD alliance arithmetic
According to Ashutosh Kumar, professor of political science at Panjab University, Chandigarh, the INLD- Congress coalition will have bleak chances of survival.
“Congress-INLD alliance will be sheer electoral opportunism based on some calculations...Congress is on a strong wicket in Haryana...INLD needs Congress more...Hooda will never like to have an alliance with the INLD,” Kumar said, pointing out that coalitions survive when both the partners need each other equally.
What Kumar says will be a music to the ears of CLP leader Hooda, who said: “As far as Haryana Congress is concerned, we are competent enough to fight Lok Sabha and Assembly elections on our own. We don’t have to enter into an alliance with the INLD.”
Asked if INLD has extended rally invite to the Congress, Hooda said: “I have no information...no one has consulted me either.”
Kiran Choudhry, another party heavyweight, said issues such as electoral alliance will be decided by the party high command.
“We are definitely strong in Haryana to fight the BJP alone, but such decisions are taken by the party high command and not by any individual,” said Choudhry, the political bete noire of Hooda, who was in Rajasthan, making preparation for Rahul Gandhi’s September 23 rally.
Nuh MLA Aftab Ahmed said that it was too early to talk about an alliance and it was the party’s call to take.
Endorsing the views of Hooda and Ahmed, former speaker and Congress veteran Raghuvir Singh Kadian said the state party leaders will apprise the high command of the ground realities first.
“I fully endorse the views of our (CLP) leader. However, after informing the high command about what we think, we will accept the party’s decision,” Kadian said.