Energised by Hooda, Haryana Cong expects local issues to neutralise BJP spin
By Vishal Gulati
Chandigarh, March 19 With the Congress cadre feeling enthused in the BJP-Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) ruled Haryana despite the BJP making it a Narendra Modi vs Rahul Gandhi narrative for 2024, the leadership of the grand old party is hoping to romp home with two victories in 2024 under the leadership of veteran and two-time Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda as he’s campaigning aggressively.
With the BJP facing the arduous task of beating an anti-incumbency of over eight years, the Congress is trying to show the complete failure of the government on all fronts, resulting in distress across all sections of society.
The Congress under the leadership of the father-son duo — Bhupinder Hooda and his Member of Parliament son Deepender Hooda — is eyeing two consecutive wins, the first in the 2024 Lok Sabha and later the Vidhan Sabha polls.
With the Opposition ready for a battle of perception, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who seems to be banking largely on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma, has told party workers that they would get to celebrate Holi thrice next year.
“I would urge all of you to get ready as you will get two more occasions to celebrate Holi — in May and then in October, when good will again win over evil,” the Chief Minister was quoted as saying.
With Khattar facing criticism several times in eight years of his leadership ranging from the farmers and the government employees’ unrest, to granting paroles to self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim to a spike in crime and unemployment, Leader of Opposition Hooda has time and again been rapping the state authorities on their knuckles.
“People are speaking openly against the government and that it is certain that the BJP-JJP will lose in the coming elections and the Congress will form the government,” Hooda, 76, told IANS.
“People are fed up with the present government. Haryana, which was number one in per capita income, investment and development till 2014 during the Congress government, has been made number one in unemployment, crime and scams by the present set up,” he said.
Hooda said about two lakh posts are lying vacant in government departments. “Instead of filling them, scams are happening continuously in the name of recruitment. Jobs are being sold like goods at a grocery store. About 30 examinations have been leaked so far,” he said.
Saying there was no anti-India chant on foreign soil by party leader Rahul Gandhi, who’s embroiled in a controversy over his ‘democracy under attack’ remarks at a London event, Hooda told IANS, “Rahul has not said anything against (democracy in) India.”
Believing that the two legs of Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in the state was a grand success, Hooda said there was tremendous participation in both the phases, lakhs of people everywhere joined the yatra.
He said Gandhi interacted with all sections and people opened their hearts to him.
Hooda said if the Congress was voted to power in the state, it would abolish the Parivar Pehchan Patra (PPP) and restore the old-age pension scheme.
“The Congress will surely form the next government in Haryana as people are looking towards the Congress as a change,” a confident Hooda said.
He said over eight years of the BJP government — first five years alone and three of five years of the second stint with the JJP — were non-performing.
“Not even a single inch of metro or rail line or mega infrastructure project has been commissioned in the past eight years. Not even a single medical college or university was set up in all these years,” he stated.
Blaming the BJP-JJP government for pushing the state into a debt trap and taking it towards bankruptcy, Hooda said the current debt is more than Rs 4 lakh crore.
Party insiders told IANS that Hooda has been single-handedly taking on the incumbent government since the party’s humiliating rout in 2014.
“If Hooda is given a free hand not only to lead the election campaign but also in the allocation of tickets to candidates, he will ensure the party’s victory in both the parliamentary and the assembly polls,” a senior Congress leader told IANS.
“The victory of the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections will mean the revival of the Congress just ahead of the assembly elections,” he said.
After facing a humiliating defeat in the 2014 assembly polls, Hooda was almost marginalised by the Congress factions — one led by former Union Minister Kumari Selja, and the other by national spokesman Randeep Surjewala. Currently, both Selja and Surjewala have been cut down to size in state politics.
The Congress last year replaced Selja as the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) president with Udai Bhan, also a Dalit but a loyalist of Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Hooda.
Banking high on its pro-incumbency and the Modi factor, Chief Minister Khattar believes good governance with zero corruption, which is essential for economic growth, is the mantra for his success. Unprecedented development will remain the party’s main poll plank for the forthcoming elections.
In the run-up to the assembly poll announcement in 2019, the Congress high command handed over the reins of the party’s affairs in the state by appointing Bhupinder Hooda as the Congress Legislature Party leader.
This time Hooda, the party’s prominent Jat face, has started a whirlwind tour of the state much ahead of the polls and has also set the party’s house in order which enabled him to boost the morale of the party’s cadre.
In the 2014 Assembly polls, the BJP improved its 2009 tally of four to 47 (33.2 per cent vote share), followed by the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) with 19 (24.11 per cent) legislators with the Congress coming third with 15 (20.58 per cent) seats against 40 in 2009 (35 per cent).
The ruling BJP led by Chief Minister Khattar in 2019 won 39 seats but failed to cross the halfway mark in the 90-member Assembly.
The rival Congress won 31 seats, while the less than a year old Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), which broke away from the state’s once major regional INLD owing to family disputes, won 10 seats.
Besides the JJP, seven independent MLAs have also extended support to the BJP, helping it reach a tally of 57 seats.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)