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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

Hooda plays hardball, but may not announce new party tomorrow

There has been speculation about Hooda announcing his own party at Sunday’s rally, billed as a show of strength by him ahead of the assembly elections due later this year.

india Updated: Aug 17, 2019 01:45 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda addressing the Worker’s Meeting at the new Anaj Mandi in Rohtak on Sunday. August 04, 2019.
Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda addressing the Worker’s Meeting at the new Anaj Mandi in Rohtak on Sunday. August 04, 2019.(Photo by Manoj Dhaka/HindustanTimes)
         

Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda may not announce the launch of his new party during a rally at Rohtak on Sunday, as he was expected to, but is likely to serve an ultimatum to the Congress leadership on changing the party’s leadership in the state, a close aide of his said on condition of anonymity.

There has been speculation about Hooda announcing his own party at Sunday’s rally, billed as a show of strength by him ahead of the assembly elections due later this year.

Hooda, a prominent Jat face of Haryana, and state Congress president Ashok Tanwar, a Dalit leader considered close to former party chief Rahul Gandhi, have been sparring over several issues for years.

Their fight hasn’t helped the party’s cause in elections.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 7 out of the 10 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and also went on to form the government after assembly elections in October that year, the first time it formed the government in Haryana on its own since the state was carved out of Punjab on November 1, 1966.

In this year’s Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won all the 10 seats in the state.

Since Tanwar’s appointment in February 2014, fights between his supporters and Hooda’s have publicly embarrassed the Congress on many occasions and all efforts by the central leadership to set its house in order have failed.

Hooda has now upped the ante against Tanwar and demanded his immediate replacement.

Though Hooda has denied forming a new party, his supporters have asked him to take the “extreme step” if the Congress high command does not go for a change of guard within next few days, the aide added.

Hooda’s son Deepender Hooda supported the central government’s decision to scrap Article 370 and split Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories, a stand contrary to the party’s position on the issue . Some see this as a pressure tactic by the Hoodas to expedite the decision on the leadership change in the state.

Tanwar said rallies, protests and demonstrations under the banner of the Congress are good as long as these help the party in regaining lost ground in Haryana and defeat the BJP.

“In fact, such programmes should have started immediately after the Lok Sabha elections. Why wait for over two months? I would also urge others in the Congress to do more such programmes to strengthen the party and win the upcoming assembly elections,” he said.

A Congress functionary familiar with the developments said the party has now set in motion the process to pacify Hooda and that the leadership was pleased to see him at the flag hoisting function at the Congress headquarters on the Independence Day.

Hooda has sought an appointment with party president Sonia Gandhi and also had an elaborate discussion with general secretary in-charge of Haryana Ghulam Nabi Azad recently, this person added on condition of anonymity.

The functionary said the leadership is caught in a bind over the fact that a move to replace Tanwar with Hooda at a time when Rahul Gandhi had just stepped down as party prresident could be seen as an attempt by the old guard to influence the decision making in the party now.

“As a result, the appointment of a consensus candidate like Kumari Selja cannot be ruled out,” he added.

Since there has been a change at the top in the Congress, Hooda is likely to defer his plan and wait for few more days before deciding his future course of action, another leader close to him said.

First Published: Aug 16, 2019 23:53 IST

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