There are no long queues outside the Congress office to lobby for tickets, neither are leaders camping in Delhi to grab tickets for the Haryana Vidhan Sabha elections. In fact, some MLAs are reluctant to contest and have not even applied for a ticket.
The number of applicants for Congress tickets has drastically dipped to 1,212 against more than 8,000 in the last election. To make things worse, leaders are quitting the party.
Two ministers have left it to the party to pick them to contest polls while one MLA has decided to opt out of the race. Two more who decided not to join the race for tickets were persuaded to apply.
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A number of senior leaders are hobnobbing with the BJP leaders to make their way in the saffron party. Rajya Sabha MP Birender Singh is set to join the BJP on August 16 while another senior leader Chhatar Pal has met BJP chief Amit Shah. Former MLA Nripendra Sangwan has also joined the BJP.
Prior to this, former Union minister Kumari Selja preferred a Rajya Sabha berth to contesting Lok Sabha elections from Ambala for fear of defeat. State unit chief Ashok Tanwar, who lost Sirsa to the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), wanted to change his constituency. Gurgaon MP Rao Inderjit preferred to enter the fray on a BJP ticket. Rao is now a member of the Union cabinet. Same was the case of Ramesh Kaushik and Dharmbir, who preferred a BJP ticket to Congress. Both now represent Sonepat and Bhiwani-Mahendergarh in the Lok Sabha.
A dismal nine out of the 10 loss in the Lok Sabha polls hastened the desertions in the Congress. Revenue Minister Maheder Pratap has decided to keep out of the race for a ticket this time. “The political scenario is very difficult for an idealist like me. I don’t think I should apply. The party knows my work and if it says so, I will contest. Applying is a new practice which I decided not to adopt,” Pratap told The Indian Express. However, his son has applied for a ticket.
Same was the opinion of Excise and Taxation Minister Kiran Choudhry, who parried a direct reply on applying for a ticket. “It is up to the party high command if it wants me to contest elections. They know my work. I recently met the Congress president and explained to her the political situation,” she said.
It is no secret that Choudhry is peeved with the party and had registered her protest with the government regarding neglect of her area. Sources said her meeting with Sonia Gandhi revolved around her complaints with the state leadership.
“Bas man hi nahi kiya. I did not feel like contesting. I won five times and have been the state unit chief. But no more,” said Balbir Pal Shah, who had taken up cudgels with Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. He is considered close to Rajya Sabha MP Birender Singh. He accused Hooda of regional bias.
Former Speaker and Beri legislator Raghuvir Singh Kadian also confirmed that he did not apply for the ticket. “Why should I apply? It is the party that has to decide on my role. I have left it to them,” said Kadian. Congress sources said that Speaker Kuldeep Sharma has also not applied for a ticket.
Another leader Jai Tirath Dahiya, who did not apply for a ticket, was finally persuaded by the party. He submitted his application after Hooda visited his area and declared he would contest. “I did not apply by the deadline due to certain reasons. But then the CM came to my area and announced I would be the candidate for the party so applied later,” said Dahiya.