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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

Watch | Bhupinder Singh Hooda: Is Haryana Congress’ mission impossible? | On The Record

Ahead of the polls next month, we speak to Congress’ leader in Haryana Bhupinder Singh Hooda and ask whether the decision to change the leadership in the state came too late. Hooda also responds to questions about his cases and dynasty and how he plans to challenge Manohar Lal Khattar.

india Updated: Sep 24, 2019 10:37 IST

Hindustan Times

Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had been upset with the Congress leadership for not giving him the party’s reins in the state. He had even threatened to “chart his own course”. But ahead of elections in the state next month, the Congress named Hooda as the party’s legislative party leader and former Union minister Kumari Selja as the state unit chief. Hooda, 71, spoke to Hindustan Times about the leadership change, and the challenges they face. Edited excerpts:

Has leadership change come very late?

It is better late than never. We have to look forward and not back. Both Seljaji and I have addressed workers in all the 10 Lok Sabha constituencies [in Haryana] and saw a lot of enthusiasm among the workers. After Lok Sabha elections, our workers were demoralised and they saw no hope but that has changed now.

What has changed between since May when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returned to power? Not only the Congress but the entire opposition was wiped out. What makes you hopeful now?

That was not true for Haryana only. Entire north India was hit by the wave. But the issues in Lok Sabha and assembly [elections] are different. For example in Odisha, the people gave a huge mandate to the Biju Janata Dal but gave a good number of Lok Sabha seats to the BJP. The people are very intelligent and decide accordingly. The BJP government in Haryana has proved to be a total failure. They made 154 promises before the 2014 [assembly] elections but till date have not fulfilled any. Farmers are not paid the promised adequate minimum support price, forget implementing the Swaminathan committee recommendations [for higher prices]. They are feeling betrayed and cheated.

Has chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar successfully broken the Jat monopoly in Haryana?

You are wrong. I am not a leader of Jats only but of all the people. All castes supported me. We, in the Congress, do not exploit castes to get votes. No political party can survive if it takes along only one caste. If that was the case, then no party can be beaten.

How deep is the divide between Jats and non-Jats in Haryana?

This is a myth. There is nothing like it because in our society everybody is dependent on each other. The [Jat] agitation took place in Haryana because the BJP government promised reservation to Jats in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi but failed to fulfil it. That is why the Jats felt agitated.

Politics is about perception. If the BJP says Hooda is facing so many cases, how will you counter that?

... I am not worried about the cases. I am not afraid of false and politically motivated cases and I know I have done nothing wrong. People know me and my family and I have credibility.

What will you offer the people which the BJP cannot?

My performance as the chief minister speaks for itself. That time, farmers, government employees... in general were happy. On the other hand, the BJP government has failed miserably. I had fulfilled every single point in 2005 and 2009 manifestos. And you take the BJP manifesto of 2014, please point out to me even one single promise they have fulfilled.

How will you counter the BJP’s narrative on nationalism and the abrogation of Constitution’s Article 370?

I supported the abrogation of Article 370, which had already been diluted. Now, it is no issue. We will keep the focus on the slowdown in the economy and the BJP government’s failures. Before 2014, Haryana was number one in sports but now we are top in unemployment. Law and order situation has worsened.