Unite factions, fight polls: New Haryana Cong chief Selja has her plate full
Newly-appointed president of Haryana Congress Kumari Selja will have to hit the ground running. With Assembly elections at the doorstep, she faces a tough task of not only reviving a unit marred by factionalism and successive electoral defeats but also to make it fighting fit.
Selja, 56, takes over at a time when the Congress is at its lowest ebb in Haryana having lost all the ten seats in the recent Lok Sabha elections. Her predecessor Ashok Tanwar headed the party for six years but his tenure saw increased infighting and repeated poll defeats - be it local bodies or the Lok Sabha elections.
Selja, a former union minister and a prominent Dalit face of the Congress, is the first woman president of the grand old party in male-dominated Haryana since the state was carved out of Punjab on November 1, 1966.
Her other challenge will be to strike a fine balance between Jats and non-Jats in the party given the state is vertically divided on the issue. Former chief minister and a top Jat leader of Haryana Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who had raised a banner of revolt against Tanwar and threatened to form his own party if he was not immediately removed, too has been pacified by appointing him the legislative party leader and chairman of the election management committee.
Though Hooda and Selja did not share a cordial relationship in the past, the two will have to bury their differences to strengthen the party ahead of the assembly elections, due in October-November this year.
Before going to the elections, she will need to assert herself during the candidate selection. Hooda was keen to be a part of the selection process and hence was given the post of the Congress legislative party (CLP) post. In all the past elections, Hooda and Tanwar slugged it out publicly over ticket distribution as a result of which the Congress performed badly and gave a clear edge to the BJP, which is hopeful of retaining power in the upcoming polls.
But Selja is no Tanwar. Her seniority and closeness to Congress president Sonia Gandhi will definitely be an advantage and enable her to tame other disgruntled senior leaders.
While winning the elections seems a tough ask at this point of time, she will be satisfied if the Congress improves its 2014 performance.