Haryana Cong grapples with internal feud ahead of polls

Intense factionalism has affronted the Congress in Haryana as it braces up to fight the upcoming polls by constituting its district-level bodies. Factionalism, which is not new to the party, has an immense potential to damage its polls prospects,  reports Rajesh Moudgil

Factionalism in Haryana Congress was out in the open at all the meetings held by AICC observers in different districts of the state with the groups of supporters having allegiance with different leaders openly raising slogans against their rivals.

These meetings are aimed at starting the process to constitute the party organisations including the district units in Haryana which have not been formed for the past about nine years. Notably, it has been the bickering within due to which the party has so far failed to do so.

The uproar was evident everywhere the AICC observers held these meets. It was witnessed when the AICC state coordinator Mayank Patel, state observers Mewa Singh and Ajay Sharma, and Anand Dangi had held the meeting in Hisar and Jind districts to take feedback on the names for the district unit office-bearers.

Supporters belonging to the camp of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on one side and former state unit president Kumari Selja, Rajya Sabha member Randeep Surjewala and Tosham MLA Kiran Choudhary, on the other, openly shouted slogans against their rival camp leaders.

While several workers raised slogans against Hooda and his son Deepender and several other workers against the other side, several even shouted slogans against the observers. Similar scenes were also witnessed at Mahendergarh district earlier in the beginning of this month.

Likewise, such infighting also came to the fore during the meetings held by AICC observers in Hisar, Jind, Kurukshetra and Panipat districts in following days. And as if this was not all, more was on the way in the subsequent days at Karnal and Yamuanagar meetings.

At Karnal, supporters of the rival camps even pushed each other, almost came to blows and got engaged in heated arguments during such a meeting. The anti-Hooda faction shouted slogans like “Babu-bete ki party nahi chalegi’’ (meaning “would not allow high-handedness of Hooda (father), and his MP son Deepender Hooda’’). Allegations are that Hooda is maintaining his stronghold in Sonepat, Rohtak and Jhajjar districts (his citadel) and now promoting his son Deepender while side-lining several senior leaders and their supporters in the state.

The supporters of the Hooda detractors also raised slogans against state party president Udai Bhan for ignoring senior leaders like Kumari Selja, Randeep Surjewala and Kiran Choudhry by not allowing their supporters to these meetings.

According to information, former Congress legislator Sumita Singh who was present at the meeting expressed regret saying it should not have happened and that it was time all the party workers unitedly fought against the ruling BJP-JJP combine.
Here the AICC observers including district coordinators Yograj Bhadoria, S L Sharma and former MLAs Jarnail Singh and Lahiri Singh had held a meeting to start the process to select district level office-bearers including presidents.

In Yamunanagar district too, the groups loyal to Radaur MLA Bishan Lal Saini and Sadhaura MLA openly raised slogans against each other.

According to information, the observers were scheduled to consult former state presidents, MPs and former MPs, legislators and former MLAs as well as the candidates of previous Lok Sabha and assembly elections and former district presidents, besides other leaders of different wings of the party during these meetings.

Slip of tongue!

Most recently, tempers ran high among several groups within the party at Rohtak where the visiting AICC coordinator Deepak Pathak said that the next government would be formed under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi and Bhupinder Singh Hooda would lead the next government in the state.

However, according to a media report, party general secretary and state in-charge Deepak Babaria, has termed Pathak’s comments as “a slip of tongue’’, stating that it was up to the party to decide who would be the chief minister.

On the issue of bickering in the party, Babaria, held that while public display of internal rift was unfortunate, the senior leaders could have informed the party leadership for redressal of their issues. He further held that the party’s priority was to form the Congress government in the state and hence, the efforts were on to have a strong organisational structure by having strong district bodies and office-bearers at the earliest.

However, Hooda, on the other hand, who interacted with newspersons in Karnal a few days ago, maintained that while it would be the people of the state and the MLAs of the party who would choose their chief minister, he was a strong contender for the post!

Kharge apprised of grudge

Meanwhile, Kumari Selja, Surjewala and Kiran Choudhry have held a meeting with the AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge and general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal and apprised them of the anguish of the party workers who were being ignored or side-lined.

They told newspersons that there were several leaders whose families and themselves had worked for the party during all adverse circumstances, but were now being side-lined. They alleged that there were some people who wanted to divide the party in a planned manner and that would not be allowed.

The Cong standing

It may be recalled that in the House of 90, Congress as of now has 30 members. While BJP has 41 MLAs and 10 legislators of Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), an ally of BJP, there are one each of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP) and seven independent MLAs.

Till November last year, Congress’ tally was 31 which came down to 30 after Congress senior leader Kuldeep Bishnoi quit Congress and joined BJP reportedly after not being made the state party chief by the party high command. This necessitated this bye-election in which his son Bhavya, 30, not only retained the family stronghold but also registered his maiden win of his political career. He defeated Congress’ Jai Prakash, 67, the choice of the former two-time chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, with a margin of 15,714 votes.

It may be recalled that it was Hooda-led Congress which had formed government in Haryana twice in a row – first time in 2005 when it had won 67 seats and then in 2009 when it won 40 seats and formed the government with the help of seven independents. In 2014 Congress’ graph fell to 15 seats when the BJP came to power with 47 seats.