With less than two months to before Haryana elects its share of 10 members of parliament, the Opposition Congress is yet to come across as a united unit in state giving the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) an edge. Haryana will vote on May 12 during sixth phase of the polling for the Lok Sabha polls.
Keen to perform better – NDA had won seven seats in 2014 – in Haryana, the BJP is aggressively trying to strengthen its booth level cadre while there are no visible indications to show that the infighting is over in the Congress. The infighting has become more serious in Congress after a clash between the party workers in New Delhi in October 2016 in which Haryana Pradesh Congress Congress Committee (HPCC) Ashok Tanwar had received injuries.
Speaking to The Indian Express on Thursday, former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said, “We are fully prepared for the Lok Sabha polls. Congress will perform better in the polls.” Echoing similar sentiments, Tanwar said “We all Congressmen have one target and we will win the polls. We are prepared up to booth level.”
However, despite their claims, the senior Congress leaders have hardly been seen together on the dais at any of the events held in the recent past. During the Jind bypolls, Hooda, Tanwar, CLP leader Kiran Choudhry and former CM Bhajan Lal’s son Kuldeep Bishnoi had come together to work for Congress candidate Randeep Singh Surjewala. But Surjewala faced humiliating defeat and infighting was blamed for the same. Earlier, the party had lost civic body polls.
Now, the Congress workers can be seen pointing out “lack of unity in the party”. They say that that “it may affect morale of the party men, if the issue was not addressed immediately”. Many Congressmen believe that the party should contest the polls more aggressively, especially after the split in the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), to take on the ruling party.
Instead of a united approach, the Congress leaders, during past four years, kept holding personality based rallies projecting themselves as the “next CM”. But the biggest reason for infighting appears to be the claim to the post of the HPCC president. A young Congress leader Ashok Tanwar is holding the chair of HPCC president for the past five years. Lately, differences cropped up between Hooda and Tanwar after the Delhi clash between party workers in October 2016. Tanwar had claimed that Hooda supporters had attacked him even as the former CM has been stating that he had nothing to do with the incident. Acting on Tanwar’s complaint, the Delhi police had lodged an FIR in February 2017. Later on, Hooda’s supporter MLAs had openly demanded removal of Tanwar from the HPCC president’s post. Hooda supporters expressed unhappiness when he was not projected as CM candidate.
But now Hooda camp doesn’t appear too much inclined to raise the issue of change in the state leadership. “Now, it’s too late to take any action on the issue of HPCC president. Till last year, Congress’s ticket was considered a guaranteed lottery ticket to win the Lok Sabha as well as the Assembly polls, but now situation has changed,” said a Hooda supporter who did not wish to be quoted.
The worst impact of infighting can be assessed from the fact that there are no functional district and block level committees for the past five years in Haryana. Hooda admits that “such committees give more strength to the party”. However, he said, “There is infighting in BJP but we don’t have any such matter.”
Tanwar says, “ As many as 200 presidents of block committees and district committees could not be appointed but we have thousands of office-bearers for our frontal organizations. We will hold big rallies in support of our candidates in Haryana.”
A supporter of Tanwar said that some Congress leaders are fighting for more share from Lok Sabha and Assembly seats for their men. “They should consider the party organization supreme instead of indulging in narrow-minded politics.”
Congress’s score in past Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls
In April 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress could secure just one seat, Rohtak from where the then Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s son Deepender Singh Hooda had won. Congress’s vote share in the Lok Sabha polls (22.99 %) had dipped to 20.58% during the Assembly polls held in October 2014 when it had won 15 seats in the 90 member Assembly.