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Problem for Congress in Haryana, senior leaders reluctant to fight LS polls

The faction-ridden party has been witnessing infighting in Haryana for a long time now and all efforts by the central leadership to get the state unit to set its house in order have failed.

lok sabha elections Updated: Mar 21, 2019 12:58 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Lok Sabha election,Congress,Haryana
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad (second from the right) and Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee President Ashok Tanwar (R) during the Haryana Coordination Committee meeting at AICC headquarters in New Delhi on March 19, 2019. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)

The Congress in Haryana is struggling to find candidates for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections with many senior leaders reluctant to contest from the state. This could be linked to the crushing defeat in the recently held Jind assembly by-poll, a party functionary aware of the development said.

The faction-ridden party has been witnessing infighting in Haryana for a long time now and all efforts by the central leadership to get the state unit to set its house in order have failed.

That senior Congress leaders are reluctant to fight the Lok Sabha elections was evident at the first meeting of the newly-formed state coordination committee in Delhi on Tuesday.

Formation of a 16-member panel, headed by former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, too had its share of controversy when the party withdrew the announcement minutes after issuing it.

Congress general secretary in-charge of Haryana Ghulam Nabi Azad later restored the order clarifying that it was withdrawn as the party wanted to name other panels as well. Tuesday’s meeting exposed the fault lines further in the party.

Congress Working Committee (CWC) member Kuldeep Bishnoi, who is upset at not being given any key responsibility in the party, skipped the meeting. Senior leaders Navin Jindal, Kuldeep Sharma and Kumari Selja did not sound enthusiastic about contesting the upcoming polls, the leader said.

Polling in 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana -- Kurukshetra, Sirsa, Hissar, Karnal, Sonipat, Rohtak, Bhiwani-Mahendragarh, Ambala, Gurgaon and Faridabad – will be held on May 12. Votes will be counted on May 23.

While Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar will be fighting the Lok Sabha polls from Sirsa, Bhupinder Singh Hooda wants to focus on the assembly elections – scheduled in October-November this year -- but would agree to contest if asked by the party high command, the leader added.

His son, Deepender Singh Hooda, is seeking a fourth term in the Lok Sabha from Rohtak.

Bishnoi, who also skipped the March 12 CWC meeting in Ahmedabad, wants his son Bhavya to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Hissar. There are reports suggesting that the BJP and other parties are reaching out to him.

In the Jind by-poll, All India Congress Committee (AICC) communication department head and sitting legislator from Kaithal Randeep Singh Surjewala finished third. While Krishan Lal Middha of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the seat, Digvijay Singh Chautala of the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) finished second.

Surjewala, who agreed to contest the by-election on the directions of the Congress leadership following an internal assessment that the party could finish fifth or sixth, is keen to seek re-election to the state assembly from Kaithal.

The by-poll also brought to the fore the sharp division in Haryana on caste lines between Jats and non-Jats. Political parties are now drafting their electoral strategies based on these calculations.

Azad has now proposed a bus tour from March 26 to 30 to ensure that the warring factions move together and display unity ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. The tour will begin from Faridabad and end in Jhajjar.

With this move, the Congress wants to replicate the model it used in Karnataka in 1999-2000 and in united Andhra Pradesh in 2003-2004.

“The leaders are different before entering the bus, but when they come out of the bus after a few weeks, they are one. Twenty leaders become one. When they speak from one stage, when they eat from the same plate, they become one,” Azad had said while announcing the bus campaign on Monday.

First Published: Mar 21, 2019 12:57 IST