After long tussle within its Haryana unit, the Congress high command recently formed a coordination committee for the state while appointing former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, 71, as its chairman. Hooda, who served as Haryana CM from 2005 to 2014, tells The Indian Express about the challenges being faced by the Congress in the state.
As a former CM who is facing 4 cases of corruption and misuse of official position, what do you think Congress’ prospects in the upcoming Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls in Haryana? On the contrary, there’s no such taint on the incumbent CM Manohar Lal Khattar.
Actually, the cases against me have been slapped due to political vendetta to malign me. I don’t give a damn about such tactics and (will) fight against the misrule of the BJP. They want to muffle my voice. I belong to a freedom fighter family. Even Britishers could not threaten us. So, we will keep on fighting for the people of Haryana. As far as Mr Khattar is concerned, this is a government of .you can say, so many scams. One scam after another scam. Last time, you see they did a scam of Rs 20,000 crore in Aravalis (case). Even Supreme Court had to intervene then. Even in this mining (case), the Supreme Court had indicted the Chief Minister’s Office. What else do you want? … They did not spare, even the dal-roti (scheme) for the poor. Rampant corruption is there.
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It appears it’s survival crisis for Congress since currently you have barely one seat in Lok Sabha from Haryana and there too you will be facing huge anti-incumbency. How do you plan to overcome it?
This is a misconception, there is no anti-incumbency against MP over there, people are happy with him (in Rohtak). Actually, anti-incumbency is against this government for its failure. This is a non-performing and event management government. And the manifesto which has been released by Congress promising guarantee of minimum income for five crore BPL families, that will be a game changer. Actually, BJP government in Haryana has proved to be a name-changer only but Congress would be a game changer. Haryana is going to repeat its history of 2009 when it got nine out of total ten seats here, we may get ten this time. I have seen during the Bus Yatra in all the ten parliamentary constituencies which touched about 65 Assembly constituencies that people are fed up with the BJP government and they are turning towards Congress.
It appears Modi factor is again likely to play a part in these polls. How are you combating it with a divided Congress that is facing a lot of infighting? By merely posing for pictures, do you think voters are going to buy it that all is well within Congress?
This is media’s creation, otherwise there is no infighting in the Congress, there is no groupism. There is one leader, Rahul Gandhi and everyone is united (under) his umbrella. You have seen yourself in the bus (yatra). As as far as the Modi wave is concerned, ‘har bar kath ki handi nahi chadti hai’.
Congress is known for factionalism in Haryana? Currently, how many factions are in Haryana?
There is no factionalism in Haryana Congress. Congress under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi is one and united.
Don’t you think that in the absence of a united approach, the Congress workers are confused in Haryana.
No, we have united approach and will support whomever the party will give ticket (for contesting polls).
Do you think that your selection for the post of coordination committee’s chairman will make any difference?
That’s for you people to judge, but I think it will benefit the party to some extent.
Do you feel Congress is passing through a toughest phase in Haryana after defeat in Mayoral elections and Jind bypoll?
I don’t know how you can say defeat of Congress in mayoral elections because the Congress never fought (MC polls) on its symbol for the past 50 years. Rather it is clear defeat of BJP because it was fighting on its own symbol. You just take the example of Rohtak. There are 22 wards and BJP could win only eight while it lost 14 others. Who has won there? Similarly, Hisar, out of 20 wards, they won seven and lost 13. In mayor election, because it was direct election, there were many candidates belonging to Congress. (for) Mayor because nobody was fighting on symbol, so there was division (of votes). About Jind by-election..Normally, bypolls are won by the ruling party. They (opponents) misused the government machinery and even votes were purchased.
There was a time when everybody was talking about possible return of Congress to power in Haryana. Don’t you think that perception has changed in Haryana?
Yes, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going. There was a period which looked like that. But now there are visible upsurge in the fortune of Congress again.
How much do you think Pulwama and subsequent air strikes are going to play as a factor since there are districts in Haryana that are dominated by ex-servicemen?
No, they (BJP) have been exposed. See, in the beginning, everybody supported and even my party supported (the BJP government). Naturally, when the question of nation comes, everybody has to be one. But, if some party wants to take political advantage of the sacrifices done by brave soldiers. The martyrs are not for a government or a party, their sacrifice is for the country. Those politicians who are trying to take advantage of this issue are insulting the martyrs.
Do you think demonetisation is still a factor that may dampen BJP’s prospects?
Yes, demonetisation. has proved a biggest scam.
Arvind Kejriwal has proposed an alliance with Congress in Haryana. How do you react to this?
No solid proposal is there. But as far as Haryana is concerned, the state Congress doesn’t need any alliance. But being a national party, if there is some alliance at the national level, it will have impact in Haryana also.
What are the top five major issues on which you are trying to convince the electorate to vote for you and not BJP or INLD?
You just see manifesto of the Congress which offers minimum income guarantee for five crore families. Second is farm distress. The condition of farmers is deteriorating day by day because of cost of inputs are increasing and their income is decreasing. In our manifesto, we have provided something for every section of the society including assuring employment, social justice and increase in the working days under MNREGA scheme in rural areas.
What are the key promises that you are making when you go in for campaigning? What more do you offer to the people of Haryana, which BJP hasn’t given or is promising to give?
BJP has failed on every aspect. The loan waiver promise is there. Proper prices of the crops will be given to the farmers under the formula of Swaminathan committee. We had given 3.82 lakh plots to poor (in Haryana). This (BJP) government has not provided even a single plot to anyone. Government employees are unsatisfied. Law and order situation, it looks like there is no government, it is free for all.
Don’t you think that Congress has failed to take advantage of split in the INLD?
The INLD is of no consequence now, the fight is between Congress and BJP. You must remember one thing that in 2014 when the INLD was the main opposition party, one year after seeing their performance in the Assembly, I had said this is not main opposition party but main supporting party because it has been supporting the BJP and which proved to be right after three years as Mr Dushyant Chautala said they have been supporting the BJP. I will be right in predicting that base of one or two factions of the INLD will be eroded by the time elections come. It will have no existence.