DW BUREAU / CHANDIGARH
Factionalism within the Congress and corruption charges against the party leadership are the main stumbling blocks that the two-time Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is facing in his seemingly last ‘do-or-die battle in Haryana, according to political observers.
Hooda, a de-facto Chief Ministerial candidate, feels his party has an edge over the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by first-time Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who is aiming 75 plus seats in the 90-member Assembly, owing to huge unemployment that as per estimates reached 28.7 per cent against the national average of 8.4 per cent.
“The BJP has not fulfilled even one of its 154 promises made in the last Assembly elections (2014),” Hooda told IANS.
If the Congress returned to power, farm loans would be waived within six months, old-age pension would be raised to Rs 5,100 and the women of poor families would get a monthly allowance of Rs 2,000, he said.
But political observers have said that it was literally a do-or-die battle for Hooda, 72, who is struggling for his political survival.
He was pushing hard to get the party at the helm again.
“This time, Hooda is fighting on two fronts — one is to establish himself as he faced humiliating defeat along with his son Deepender in the last Lok Sabha and the second is to ensure the party’s return as he forced the Congress to announce him as the leader despite all odds,” a political observer told IANS.
After facing a humiliating defeat in the 2014 assembly polls, Hooda was almost marginalised by the Congress factions — one led by former Union Minister Kumari Selja, and the other by national spokesman Randeep Surjewala.
This gave opportunity to Ashok Tanwar to emerge as a leader in the state politics.
Just days ahead of this poll announcement, the Congress high command handed over to Hooda the reins of the party’s affairs in the state by appointing him as the Congress Legislative Party leader.
So was, former Union Minister Kumari Selja who was appointed the state unit party President, replacing Tanwar, who was appointed in February 2014.
“The handing over the party reins to Hooda is part of the Congress strategy to save its sinking ship in the state and to boost the morale of cadres as the party for long has been divided in camps,” a senior state Congress leader admitted.
But recent raking up of allegations of nepotism and corruption publicly by Tanwar after resigning from the Congress has once again dampened the winning prospects of the Congress.
Tanwar was in fact unhappy as he could manage only two tickets for his supporters, while the major chunk of 60 seats went to the supporters of Hooda.