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After Vivek Bansal is fired, new AICC in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil braces for Haryana Cong minefield

Shaktisinh Gohil may face an uphill task in grappling with pulls and pressures of different factions and infighting in Haryana Congress dominated by Hooda camp

haryana congress, Shaktisinh Gohil, indian expressShaktisinh Gohil is likely to face an uphill task in grappling with the pulls and pressures of different factions and infighting in the Haryana Congress. (File)
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After Vivek Bansal is fired, new AICC in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil braces for Haryana Cong minefield
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Months after Vivek Bansal’s role as the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge of Haryana came under scanner after senior Congress leader Ajay Maken lost the Rajya Sabha polls from the state, the party high command has appointed a new state in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil in his place.

Bansal’s removal from his post was expected since the Congress suffered a humiliating loss in the Rajya Sabha polls on June 10 this year in Haryana despite having adequate numbers. The then Congress MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi’s cross-voting and a ballot filled up wrongly by another Congress MLA sealed the party nominee Maken’s fate, who lost the election to the ruling BJP-JJP-backed Independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma.

Gohil was then the chief counting agent for Maken. Congress sources told The Indian Express that at 1: 44 pm on June 10 Gohil stepped out of the state Assembly premises, where the polling was going on, and declared Maken’s victory.

However, a recounting of votes took place later and Gohil was refused re-entry into the Assembly. Subsequently, Kartikeya’s polling agent came out and declared that he had won on the basis of “second preference” votes.

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In October, Bansal turned out to be the only member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) not to find a place in the AICC Steering Committee that was formed by Mallikarjun Kharge following his election as the new party president.

“For whatever reasons it has happened (my removal as Haryana in-charge) but I respect the party high command’s decision. Anybody could have been defeated at that time (June 10) considering the circumstances and the cleverness with which the voting took place. I have always discharged my duty with maximum commitment and honesty. Anybody who is now trying to raise a finger at me or is questioning my commitment, I feel he or she is most dishonest and must face me or confront me on any public platform,” Bansal told the Express.

Bansal, 63, hails from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh. The last time he won an Assembly poll was in 2002, from the Aligarh seat. Since then, he has been losing from the Koil seat, losing the 2012 election by just 500 votes to a SP nominee, while in 2017 and 2022 polls he finished third behind the BJP and the SP candidates.

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Bansal was appointed as the party in-charge of the Haryana unit in September 2020, which remained plagued by factionalism and infighting. He was Maken’s agent for the Rajya Sabha bypoll. A “wrong vote” by a Congress MLA was believed to have caused Maken’s loss, and given that it was Bansal’s mandate to see that every party legislator marked their ballot correctly before casting it, his role had come under cloud. He was expected to be on his guard, especially as the party was anticipating the sulking Bishnoi to indulge in “cross voting”, which the latter eventually did.

In August, Bishnoi quit the Congress to join the BJP along with his wife Renuka and son Bhavya, attacking Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda for allegedly running the party as a “one-man show” in the state. Bishnoi’s resignation as an MLA necessitated a bypoll in Adampur, his family stronghold, from where the BJP fielded Bhavya.

Despite Bhupinder Hooda, his son and Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Hooda, and his loyalist Udai Bhan, the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC)’s president Udai Bhan, leading the campaign in Adampur for the Congress’s candidate Jai Prakash, the latter lost the bypoll from which Bansal was kept out.

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Hooda’s detractors have blamed him for the exit of prominent leaders, including Chaudhary Birender Singh, Rao Inderjit Singh, Ashok Tanwar and Bishnoi, from the grand old party over the last several years. Sources told the Express that the Congress high command has now also been upset with the Haryana unit leadership over the party’s losses in the June Rajya Sabha election and the October Adampur bypoll.

Senior Gujarat Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP, Shaktisinh Gohil, who is also the party’s Delhi in-charge, has been entrusted with handling the Haryana Congress affairs at a time when dissenting party voices against the dominant Hooda faction are getting louder there. Gohil is likely to face an uphill task in grappling with the pulls and pressures of different factions and infighting in the Haryana Congress.

In September, at a meeting the HPCC finalised a list of 195 party delegates for the AICC president’s election, in which senior state leaders like Kiran Choudhry and Randeep Surjewala were not present. Along with former HPCC chief Kumari Selja, they had earlier met AICC general secretary in charge of organisation KC Venugopal to lodge a protest against the Hooda camp for not being kept in the loop while finalising the delegates list. Subsequently, they were also missing from the Adampur bypoll as they claimed they were not invited by Hooda for campaigning for Jai Prakash there.

Gohil, 62, who belongs to the erstwhile ruling family of Limda in Gujarat’s Saurashtra region, had been the LoP in the Gujarat Assembly from 2008 till 2012, when Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister.

First published on: 07-12-2022 at 08:51 IST
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