In more trouble for the Congress, senior party leader and Haryana’s two-time Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda signalled rebellion on Sunday, as he declared himself the chief ministerial candidate for the Assembly polls due later this year, with or without the party’s support.
Addressing his “parivartan rally” in Rohtak, Hooda also criticised the Congress for not supporting the Centre’s decision to revoke the special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370. He said his party had “lost its way (bhatak gayee)”, and was no longer the old Congress.
With Haryana set to go to polls in October, Hooda’s supporters have been putting pressure on the party high command to make him the state party chief, replacing incumbent Ashok Tanwar.
Hooda, who enjoys the support of 12 of the 15 Congress MLAs in Haryana, said he would constitute a 25-member committee, including the 12 MLAs, to decide the “future course of action”. He said the committee’s decision would be announced in a week.
“Aaj main yahan, apne mann se, apne aatma se, aur apne saari paabandiyon se, mukt ho ke aapke saamne aaya hoon, aur aapki ladai ladne aaya hoon (I have come before you today after freeing myself of all restrictions, to fight your battle),” he said.
“I am ready to fight the final battle, we have fought in the past too. In 2005, they said they would support me but who would let me be the chief minister. When I became the chief minister, they said who would let me continue for more than six months. I ran the government for 10 years. Once again, I have the support of all 36 castes, I will not leave it (government) for another 10 years,” he said.
“Meri char peedhiyaan Congress mein rahi… Lekin, sarkar koi theek kaam karti hai, chaahe kendra ki ho, Haryana ki ho, main usko theek kehta hoon. Ab (Article) 370 inhone hatai, bahut saare mere saathiyon ne bhi uska virodh kiya. Aur meri party bhi kuch bhatak gayee, woh pehle waali Congress nahi rahi. Lekin, jahan tak sawaal hai deshbhakti ka aur swabhiman ka, main kisise samjhauta nahi karunga. Aur isi vaaste maine (Article) 370 ka samarthan kiya (For four generations, we have been with the Congress. But if the government does the right thing, whether it is at the Centre or in Haryana, I say it is right. Many opposed the decision on Article 370. My party too has lost its way, it is no longer the old Congress. But I will not compromise on patriotism and self-respect. That is why I have supported the decision on Article 370),” he said.
“What do Haryana’s people need today? Haryana wants that your (people’s) government is formed. I had thought that I should take retirement. I have turned 72 years old. But then, I saw all of you and thought that I should fight your battle,” he said.
“There is one chief minister, but there will be four deputy chief ministers — a backward class, a Dalit, a Brahmin, and the fourth can be somebody else,” said the Jat leader, adding that he would also ensure that people from backward classes get due representation in ticket distribution for the Assembly polls.
Saying he would also ensure 75% reservation in jobs for people of Haryana, Hooda announced a detailed manifesto.
Before Hooda’s speech, his aides, including Palwal MLA Karan Dalal, former PCC chief Phool Chand Mullana, former Assembly Speaker Raghuvir Singh Kadian and Jhajjar MLA Geeta Bhukkal, also challenged the party high command, asking it to either declare Hooda as state party president or face the consequences.
More than 60 former MPs and MLAs of the Congress shared the stage with Hooda.
Hooda also targeted the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in Haryana on unemployment, deteriorating law and order, job scams and increased debt.