Birender Singh: Outspoken leader whose stock fell in Congress
Birender Singh, the Rajya Sabha MP of the Congress now negotiating with BJP chief Amit Shah, once fancied himself as Haryana chief minister and then as railway minister. Rather than get those posts, however, he has seen his influence ebb over the years, his frequent outbursts notwithstanding.
Birender, seen as enjoying the blessings of Sonia Gandhi, comes from a family of Congress loyalists and has served the party for four decades, with a break when he defected to the Congress (Tiwari) until that party merged back into the Congress.
He was then MP from Hisar and one of his recent outbursts has been that Hooda used to be his election agent. “A person who was my election agent could not be loyal to me, how can he ensure the welfare of the general public?” he said at a rally this week, while charging Hooda with regional bias, ineffectiveness and being the “Chief Minister of Rohtak”.
Among the claims he makes, one is that in 1991 prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had promised to make him the chief minister but Rajiv’s death upset his fortunes and Bhajan Lal was seated instead, restricting Birender to revenue minister. Another claim is that in 2013, prime minister Manmohan Singh called him up twice to convey that his name had been cleared as railway minister, before a fresh message hours before the portfolio allotments told him he had missed that chance. He told The Indian Express recently, “Yeh sab Hooda ne karwaya.” He blames Hooda also for the denial of the Hisar ticket to his son, an IAS officer.
Grandson of towering Jat leader Sir Chhotu Ram, Birender has not been able to use that legacy as it has been Om Prakash Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Om Prakash Chautala of the Congress Hooda who have claimed the space of Jat leaders. In 2009, when he narrowly lost his home assembly seat of Uchana Kalan to Chautala, he was pushed farther to the margins in state politics.
His connections in Delhi helped him become a Congress general secretary and it was during this period that the Congress won the assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where he was in charge. When he was removed from the post, he was tipped to become a union minister, but did not.
Even after the Congress rehabilitated him in the Rajya Sabha, his showdowns with Hooda continued. He wanted Hooda removed when the Congress lost nine of Haryana’s ten Lok continued…