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Haryana Congress hopes for ‘return boost’ but discontent persists

Seven former MLAs joined the party on Monday, but it still has to figure out a way to pacify Hooda dissidents.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh |
Updated: May 26, 2022 10:48:29 am
Leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda and state Congress president Uday Bhan with the eight former legislators who joined the party. (Photo: Twitter/@INCUdaiBhan)

Aiming to regain lost ground and rebuild its cadre base, the Haryana Congress received a shot in the arm at the start of the week when eight former MLAs and ministers joined it in the presence of Leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda and state Congress president Uday Bhan.

But with senior leaders such as Kuldeep Bishnoi, Captain Ajay Yadav, and Kumari Selja said to be unhappy with the party since Hooda was given a free run following last month’s revamp of the state unit leadership, the party is hoping to address their concerns during a two-day “Chintan Shivir” set to be held in Chandigarh on May 31 and June 1.

The Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) has been hamstrung by a weak organisational structure — its local units have not been reformed in over six years — but ever since being trounced in the April-May 2019 Lok Sabha elections, when it lost all 10 seats, the party has been inducting rebel leaders from other parties. After Selja took charge of the HPCC that September, BJP leaders Pawan Beniwal, industrialist Ashok Goyal, and former MP Tara Singh’s son Kanwaljit aka Prince joined the party.

Of the eight who joined the Congress on Monday, seven are former party leaders who had quit either in 2014 or 2019 after being denied election tickets from their constituencies. They joined either the BJP and the Haryana Janhit Congress or contested as Independents, but failed to make a mark.

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Apart from Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) veteran leader Parminder Dhull, who contested the 2019 Assembly polls on a BJP ticket, the former Congress MLAs who rejoined the party are Sharda Rathore (former Ballabhgarh MLA), Ram Niwas Ghorela (former Barwala legislator), Naresh Selwal (Uklana MLA), Rakesh Kamboj (former Indri legislator), Rajkumar Valmiki (former MLA from Jundla), Zile Ram Sharma (former Assandh MLA) and Subhash Chaudhary (former Jagadhari state legislator).

“It is not only these eight leaders who have joined the Congress. Lakhs of their supporters have also come back to the Congress and surely it is going to strengthen the party not only in their respective constituencies but also across the state. The Congress is the only reliable option available to the people of Haryana who have already made up their mind to throw away the BJP-JJP government. The Congress is on its way to make a big comeback in Haryana,” Hooda told The Indian Express.

Bhan, the incumbent HPCC president, said, “All the leaders who have joined the Congress represent different classes and communities. Of these, two represent the Kamboj community, one Brahmin, one Jat, two Scheduled Castes, one Rajput, one from the Lohat community and one from the Prajapati community. These joinings are giving a clear indication that all sections are with the Congress and hold faith in our party’s policies and vision. They will give more strength to the party. Now everyone will work together to take the organisation forward.”

Despite these inductions, the Congress still has to contend with disaffection in its ranks. The party high command has so far not been able to pacify Adampur MLA Bishnoi; Yadav, a former minister in the Hooda government, and Selja. Bishnoi did not land any position during the revamp even though he lobbied hard for a significant role in the state unit. His meeting with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar of the BJP last week also raised eyebrows in the Congress and sparked speculation about his exit. Yadav too has been left unhappy by the lack of a prominent position while Selja had to step down as HPCC chief when the party effected organisational changes. She was succeeded by Bhan, who is a Hooda loyalist.

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The Congress leader in charge of the party’s Haryana affairs, Vivek Bansal, told The Indian Express that he was in constant contact with Bishnoi and the “matter shall soon be sorted out”. Bansal said the state-level “Chintan Shivir” would be held to implement the resolutions passed at the Udaipur conclave held earlier in the month.

According to Congress insiders, the party may discuss giving a dissident a Rajya Sabha seat. The election for two Upper House seats is going to take place on June 10. While the Opposition party is likely to get one, the other will go to the ruling alliance of the BJP and the Jannayak Janata Party.

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