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Thursday, Oct 06, 2022

It is Hooda’s Congress: Kuldeep Bishnoi on his way to BJP, AICC in-charge sidelined

Haryana Opposition leader’s other rivals gave recent ‘Chintan Shivir’ a miss, illustrating his complete control over the state unit.

Kuldeep Bishnoi, all set to join the BJP, with Haryana CM Manohor Lal Khattar. (Express File Photo)

At the Haryana Congress’s day-long “Chintan Shivir” in Panchkula on Monday, more than the leaders present it was those who were conspicuous by their absence who caught the attention of political observers.

The state unit, which has been weakened by constant infighting over the years, is now in complete control of Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader and former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. In April, the party’s high command gave Hooda a free run by appointing his loyalist Udai Bhan the state unit president. Though the Congress tried to placate Hooda’s rivals, the organisational revamp left no doubt about who was in charge of the party in Haryana.

At the “Chintan Shivir”, Hooda’s detractors such as Randeep Singh Surjewala; Kiran Choudhry and her daughter Shruti Choudhry, who is also one of the four working presidents of the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC); and former state president Kumari Selja, who was replaced by Bhan, were missing. Kuldeep Bishnoi who is all set to join the BJP on Thursday was not invited to the event.

Most glaring was the absence of former Uttar Pradesh MLA Vivek Bansal, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) member in charge of Haryana. After the June 10 Rajya Sabha elections, Bansal came under attack in the party for failing to ensure the victory of Ajay Maken despite the party having adequate numbers. Congress insiders said Bansal had been sidelined since Maken’s loss. Asked why he was not invited, Bansal told The Indian Express that he would “discuss it with HPCC president Udai Bhan”.

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According to party insiders, Bansal is likely to be replaced soon by someone with close links to Hooda.

“Majority of the MLAs are on his (Hooda’s) side and his detractors are getting sidelined,” said a senior Congress leader. “For instance, Randeep Surjewala was active in New Delhi as the party’s national spokesman and has now got into the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan. Kumari Selja was replaced by Bhan as HPCC president, while Kuldeep Bishnoi is on the verge of joining the BJP. Kiran Choudhry has Bhiwani as her stronghold but the majority of MLAs continue to be on Hooda’s side.”

In a recent interview to The Indian Express, Bishnoi said the party was “no longer Indian National Congress in Haryana but has become Hooda Congress”.

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Bhan, however, dismissed reports of factionalism. After the “Chintan Shivir”, the HPCC president told the media that “all those who matter are present”. He added, “There is no factionalism. By 2024 polls, you all will see that all Congress leaders shall be together.”

He claimed that those who did not attend the conclave had cited “personal reasons” for their absence. “Randeep Surjewala is in the US for treatment, Kumari Selja called me and cited personal reasons for not being able to attend today’s event, and Kiran Choudhry and Shruti Choudhry had some engagements in her constituency. Several incumbent and former MLAs, and MPs are present at today’s event. A few working presidents of HPCC have not been able to come due to their personal reasons.”

Party functionaries said lobbying for district and block president posts had also begun. Hooda loyalists and oldtimers are expected to get key positions in the party set-up, cementing his dominance.

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Asked about the factionalism in the party, Hooda claimed that the party was focussing on raising issues of public importance and, in the coming days, would more aggressively highlight the BJP-JJP coalition government’s “failures”.

“People are fed up with the current government because of deteriorating law and order, unemployment, price rise, and corruption, among other reasons. We have decided that all schemes launched during the Congress’s tenure, which the current government ended, will be revived once the party comes back to power. We will allot plots to economically weaker sections, increase old-age pension to Rs 6000 per month, give 300 units of electricity to consumers for free, improve the sports policy, ensure the court’s verdict on the SYL Canal issue is implemented, and constitute a Commission for Scheduled Castes,” said the CLP leader.

Talking about Hooda’s complete control of the party infrastructure in the state, Indian National Lok Dal’s Ellenabad MLA Abhay Chautala said, “It is Kuldeep Bishnoi’s decision if he quits the Congress and joins the BJP or not. But, it is Bhupinder Singh Hooda behind Kuldeep Bishnoi’s exit from the Congress. Randeep Surjewala and Kiran Choudhry will be next, all thanks to Hooda. He (Hooda) is ensuring all his detractors exit from the party and he gains absolute control. He is compromised because of the cases registered against him and is destroying the Congress at the BJP’s behest. A day will come when he shall also quit the Congress and either float his own party or join the BJP.”

First published on: 03-08-2022 at 12:44:41 pm
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