In an interview with The Indian Express, Congress rebel MLA from Adampur, Kuldeep Bishnoi, whose cross-voting sank Congress nominee Ajay Maken’s chances in the June 10 Rajya Sabha polls from Haryana, says the Congress is in “self-destruction mode”, and calls Rahul Gandhi an “inaccessible” leader who “takes decisions under pressure”.
What led you to rebel against the party?
The major reason is that this party is in self-destruction mode. They are taking decisions under pressure. Not only that, they have been repeatedly taking wrong decisions across the nation. As far as Haryana is concerned, their decision to make Udai Bhan the party president is a disaster. When you choose the head of a state, you should pick a known face, a face that has a personal vote bank and a face whom people know. But in this case – who is Udai Bhan? Nobody knew him before he was appointed PCC president. If you pick a weak leader, how can you win a war?
Your cross-voting led to Ajay Maken losing his Rajya Sabha polls.
I did not vote for him [Ajay Maken] because this is not the Congress party of Indira Gandhi ji or Rajiv Gandhi ji. It has become Hooda Congress. Before the June 10 polling, I got a call from Ajay Maken and also from party affairs incharge Vivek Bansal. I told both of them that I would not vote for the party. They told me that RG [Rahul Gandhi] would meet me, but he did not. I had not sought any appointment with RG. I announced on social media that I would clarify the promises that he made to me. He did not have any answers. That’s why he did not meet me.
Are you upset because you were not made PCC president?
I never ran after a particular post. Over a decade ago, I had declined the post of Deputy Chief Minister. I like winning battles. I am a man of the field. That’s what I told RG also. I win hearts. I know how to take my supporters along. RG had promised me that he would let me build the party in Haryana. He was the one who promised me the post of PCC president. But, he failed to keep his promise. That is why he did not meet me because he had no answer to my questions.
Before Udai Bhan was appointed, Priyanka Gandhi called me and promised me that I would be the next PCC president. RG had already promised me. They [Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi] told me that Bhupinder Singh Hooda and I, together, we can turn the tide in Haryana. We can be an explosive combination. But, suddenly they succumbed to pressure from Hooda. The decision to appoint Udai Bhan, and not me, was taken at the last minute and only due to Hooda’s pressure.
After Udai Bhan was appointed and I expressed my anger on social media and announced that I would boycott all party events, Congress president Sonia Gandhi called me and told me not to get angry. I told her that I felt cheated. She told me that RG will meet me. He never did.
Why do you think Rahul Gandhi changed his mind?
That is his problem. He takes decisions after consulting three-four people who are his immediate coterie. His wrong decisions are resulting in our repeated losses. Why do you think Scindia left the party? Because RG does not meet anybody. He [RG] has a bad coterie. They are the people who do not understand politics. People with foreign education cannot win votes here. A person who understands the pulse of the people should be in his coterie, but sadly, it is not happening. I will not take any names. But everybody knows that the people who are there in that coterie are those who have never contested an election, never won any election or probably won their last poll battle over two decades ago. How can such people understand the pulse of the voter?
Why do you think the party high command succumbed to pressure from Hooda?
Hooda has failed repeatedly. He was given a free hand in 2009, 2014 and 2019. He failed on all three occasions and could not get a majority for the government in Haryana. In 2009, he bought five of my MLAs and formed the government. [Bishnoi had merged his Haryana Janhit Congress with the Congress.] In 2014, he failed miserably and the BJP won with an absolute majority. In 2019, he was the face of the Congress and had a free hand, yet he failed and the BJP formed the government with the JJP. In a meeting chaired by RG about two months ago, we all were asked to talk freely. Hooda was also there. I had pointed out that here is this man [Hooda] who has repeatedly failed. People know he does caste and area politics. During his tenure as CM, 80 per cent of the funds were spent in his son’s constituency. Rest of the state’s development was done with the grants that came from the Union government. People are scared that if he comes back to power, he will do the same things again. I told RG that for God’s sake, if the man has failed repeatedly, give him another job. He is not fit for this job. He [Hooda] is a good leader but he is the leader of one caste and one area. I told RG that we [I and Hooda] can collectively work together as a team, but if you give a free hand to this one man, he will fail again.
What next for Kuldeep Bishnoi? BJP? But when you broke your alliance with the BJP in 2014, you called it “not a trustworthy party”.
I said the same thing about the Congress, too. With time, a party changes and we need to appreciate that. We need to leave out what’s bad and embrace good ideologies and policies. I am in the process of meeting my supporters. For the next few days, I will meet more of my people and whatever they suggest, I will take a decision accordingly. I have been getting offers from the BJP, AAP and other parties, too. But I will take a couple of days and announce my decision within a week. Whatever I am today, it is only because of my father Chaudhary Bhajan Lal and my supporters and well-wishers. My supporters are my backbone. The Bishnoi community has an influence over 32 Assembly and seven Parliamentary constituencies in Rajasthan. People from all such places came to meet me. I have been listening to them and will announce my decision soon.
Is there still a chance that you may stay in the Congress and not move out?
In politics, everything is possible and nothing can be ruled out. I am still in the Congress. I have been removed from the CWC and other party positions, but have yet not been expelled by the party. Let’s see what happens in the future.