Factionalism has been made bitter by the level of personal attacks that warring senior leaders indulge in. Kavita Chowdhury reports.
Last week, supporters of former Union minister Kumari Selja were expelled from a Congress workers’ meeting in Hisar. Later, they were detained by the local police for raising slogans against Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The protesters said they were angry over the neglect meted out by the Hooda government to Hisar.
Senior members of the All-India Congress Committee admit that the party is reconciled to a poll rout in the upcoming assembly polls. The two-term anti-incumbency is weighing heavily on the Hooda government, they say. Adding to the woes of the party is the bitter factional feuds.
Kumari Selja, Chaudhary Birender Singh and a section of senior leaders have been at loggerheads with Hooda. Several attempts were made by former party general secretary in charge of Haryana affairs B K Hariprasad to bring about peace between the warring factions but in vain.
Birender Singh, a Rajya Sabha MP and CWC member, in a public rally, accused Hooda of being the “CM of Rohtak” as he was focused on developing only his own constituency. There were also rumours that Singh was testing the waters and headed to the BJP fold ahead of the assembly polls.
Said a senior party functionary, "Every CM in the past has focused on his own constituency but Hooda wholly lacks the ability to accommodate and carry everyone along."
Young Haryana PCC chief Ashok Tanwar has attempted to exercise his authority but in the face of warring seniors has met with little success.
There have been several demands in the past from state leaders to oust Hooda but with politics in the state deeply entrenched on Jat and non-Jat lines, the chief minister has managed to save his chair. Even when it seemed almost certain a week ago that with the complete rout in the Lok Sabha polls (only Hooda's son Deepinder managing to hold onto his seat), the CM would be replaced by the high command as would the Maharashtra CM; the leadership decided against it at the last moment.
One of Hooda's most trenchant critics, Rao Inderjit Singh, was labeled a 'rebel'. The Gurgaon MP, moved over to the BJP and has now been rewarded with a Cabinet berth. Congress state leaders say that emboldened by its increased vote share, (34.7% in the lok Sabha polls) the BJP could project Rao as its chief ministerial face. As it is there are reports that the BJP -Haryana Janhit Congress tie up could terminate soon. The BJP is said to be keen on tying up with INLD.
In the rapidly changing political scenario, the Congress is wholly ill equipped. Present general secretary Shakeel Ahmed is trying his best to conduct "dinner diplomacy" with veterans Selja and Hooda to give the Congress a face saver in the Assembly elections.