For Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar, the rule is simple. The buck doesn’t stop at his table. Despite the Congress suffering a rout in Haryana, where the BJP won all 10 Lok Sabha seats in the recently concluded polls, Tanwar has made it clear: he will not resign from his post.
This at a time when taking moral responsibility for the party’s debacle, even the AICC president Rahul Gandhi has offered to step down from his post. Several other state presidents of the party have either submitted resignations or offered to quit. However, Tanwar stands out of this crowd. Despite the continuing poor performance of the party in Haryana since 2014, including his own second consecutive defeat from Sirsa parliamentary constituency, Tanwar is firm on his decision.
He does not hold himself responsible for the party’s continuous slide in the state. “It is not the party president who needs to be solely held responsible for the party’s debacle,” Tanwar told The Indian Express.
“I have not resigned from my post, nor do I have any plans to do so,” he said, when asked if he will toe the line that party chiefs in states where Congress performed poorly have taken.
Among those who have tendered their resignation or offered to quit are Raj Babbar (Uttar Pradesh, where party could win only one of the 80 Lok Sabha seats), Ashok Chavan (Maharashtra, one of 48), Ajoy Kumar (Jharkhand, one of 14), Niranjan Patnaik (Odisha, one of nine), and Ripun Bora (Assam, 3 of 14).
Even Sunil Jakhar, the Pradesh Congress Committee chief in neighbouring Punjab, has submitted his resignation to the party high command. Punjab is the only state that bucked the national trend with the ruling Congress winning eight of the total 13 seats. However, Jakhar, who was the sitting MP from Gurdaspur, lost the seat to BJP’s Bollywood import Sunny Deol.
However, Tanwar does not find any merit in stepping down.
“It is a collective responsibility that we need to take. It is not one man who can be held responsible. We need to introspect the reasons. For this, we have called all the candidates for a meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday. Senior leaders will attend the meeting. We will discuss the future course of action and what all needs to be done,” said Tanwar.
Tanwar had started his political career as an activist of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), the student wing of the Congress party, in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). He became NSUI’s secretary in 1999 and president in 2003. Under his leadership, NSUI won two elections in Delhi University Students’ Union. He contested his first election in Haryana in 2009 and won from Sirsa parliamentary constituency by a margin of over 35,000 votes. He was made the Haryana Congress chief in February, 2014.
Haryana Congress has been on a continuing decline since 2014, losing every single election. It began with 2014 Lok Sabha polls when party could win only one seat in state. The same year in October, in the Assembly election, Congress hit an unprecedented low finishing a distant third and failing to even secure the position of the Leader of Opposition. The poor run continued in December 2018 Mayoral polls and then in January 2019 Jind bypoll, where party heavy-weight Randeep Surjewala got pushed to a distant third. The party continued with its shoddy performance in recently concluded Lok Sabha polls where it even failed to retain the only seat it held.
Hoping to give a tough fight to the BJP in Haryana, Congress had fielded its best lot of leaders including four-time MP, four-time MLA and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, his son and three-time MP Deepender Hooda, a four-time MP and former Union Minister Kumari Selja, a six-time MLA Capt Ajay Singh Yadav, and three-time MP and one-time MLA Avtar Bhadana among others. All of them lost with huge margins, a few to candidates who were fighting their maiden elections. The average winning margin of BJP candidates in Haryana in 2019 Lok Sabha polls is around 3 lakh votes plus.
Tanwar himself lost by a margin of over 3.09 lakh votes in Sirsa.
A known detractor of Hooda, Tanwar, as a party president, failed to curtail the infighting within Congress. The infighting had come to fore in October 2016 when Hooda and 12 out of 17 Congress MLAs met party veteran leader Sushil Kumar Shinde and sought Tanwar and Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Kiran Choudhry’s removal from their respective posts. Hooda and other MLAs blamed Tanwar and Choudhry for the “atmosphere of mistrust” in the party.
Shinde was probing the October 6 clash between supporters of two factions of the party that took place at the venue of a major event of Congress in New Delhi. Tanwar sustained injuries in the clash and one of his supporters accused Hooda’s supporters of attacking the HPCC chief calling it a “well-planned conspiracy”.
Although, Congress had been denying the infighting publicly, but the lack of synergy was quite visible even in the Lok Sabha polls too.
Gujarat leader of Oppn offers to quit
Ahmedabad: Congress leader and Amreli MLA Paresh Dhanani on Tuesday offered to resign from the post of Leader of the Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, following the rout of the party in the Lok Sabha Elections. The BJP won all 26 parliamentary seats in the state as well as the four Assembly bypoll seats. “On the day of the defeat itself , I’d said that I take full moral responsibility. We were unable to read the minds of the people despite our hard work and we are directly responsible for the defeat . Therefore, I have expressed my desire to quit as Leader of the Opposition,” Dhanani told The Indian Express.—ENS