In a jolt to the Congress, former Union Minister Venod Sharma has quit the party to join the Kuldeep Bishnoi-led Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC). He is tipped to be the BJP-HJC candidate from Karnal Lok Sabha constituency.
Venod is likely to formally announce his joining the HJC at a mahayagna on March 9 in Kurukshetra. This is the second major jolt for the Congress after the exit of Gurgaon MP Rao Inderjit Singh. Inderjit has joined BJP and is likely to be fielded from Gurgaon.
In his 40-year-long association with Congress, Venod has been Rajya Sabha MP once and MLA from Haryana twice. He is the currently the sitting MLA from Ambala. He has also been president of the Chandigarh unit of Congress.
He has been a minister in the centre and was also inducted in the Haryana cabinet during the first term of CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda. He had to quit after his son Manu Sharma was re-arrested in the Jessica Lall murder case. Venod Sharma runs a chain of hotels, news channels India News and News X, besides having franchise of The Sunday Guardian.
Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj is believed to have played a major role in Venod joining the HJC. A couple of days back he met BJP president Rajnath Singh along with Bishnoi to chalk out final details. Sources said though Venod Sharma was keen to join the BJP, the party leadership chose to be cautious. Sources said there was apprehension over a possible backlash from within over two key seats — Gurgaon and Karnal — going to “outsiders”.
When contacted, Bishnoi told The Indian Express, “This is a major indicator of how leaders are disillusioned with the Congress.” Sources indicated that at least 11 more Congress MLAs were waiting to follow Venod and join HJC.
Venod said, “It was not an easy decision to break such a long association. But I was pained to see that the Congress failed to maintain the democratic values and transparency in its own structure.” Sources said the BJP high command is believed to have agreed to induct Venod in the Union cabinet if voted to power.
By Mukesh Bhardwaj