Hooda's comeback proves Congress regional satraps blow

Congress leader and former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. (PTI Photo)

Indicating the clout that regional satraps wield in Congress notwithstanding the existence of a powerful high command, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda yet again managed to become the face of the party for state polls due in next two months.

In a replication of what was done in past in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, where powerful regional satraps and ex-Chief Ministers Virbadhra Singh and Captain Amarinder Singh literally forced the party to accept their leadership in the state, Hooda was on Wednesday made chairman of the election management committee of the party as well as leader of its Legislative Party.

This was a fortnight after he trained guns on Congress saying the party has “lost its way” and unequivocally backed Centre’s decision to take away the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by revoking provisions of Article 370.

This happened a day after disgruntled Hooda made his loyalists in the party to chalk out the future course of action. A fortnight ago he had in a rally in Rohtak given an ultimatum to declare him the CM candidate for 2019 assembly polls.

With Hooda’s anointment in key party positions, Congress has moved a full cycle in Haryana politics. In February 2014, it has named a young Dalit leader with Youth Congress background Ashok Tanwar the state Congress chief. Hooda not only managed to get him replaced by another Dalit leader Kumari Selja as PCC chief but also managed the CLP post, a virtual declaration of his being the CM face. This happened after the debate for years a build a "new leadership" in Haryana.

In Himachal Pradesh despite Rahul Gandhi’s’ clear preference of handing over the baton of leadership to a younger generation, Virbhadra Singh had forced the party to declare him CM candidate both in 2012 and 2017 assembly polls. Congress won in 2012 but lost massively in 2017.

In 2012 and 2017, Congress leadership had to give in to the pressure of loyalists of the powerful Punjab leader Captain Amarinder Singh. While in 2012 Congress lost, the credit for 2017 win went entirely to Singh.

 When after the death of its all-powerful regional leader Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in 2009, Congress high command refused to hand over the baton to his son Jagan Mohan Reddy, the latter formed his own party. In 2019 Jagan Mohan Reddy became Chief Minister while the Congress stands wiped out in Andhra Pradesh.
The Congress high command is currently battling a crisis of sorts in Madhya Pradesh, where three powerful regional satraps—Digvijay Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath have for decades have been making and breaking party fortunes.

The internal rivalry between Scindia and Singh ensured that Nath became party chief before 2018 assembly polls and then Chief Minister after victory. Scindia, who waited for his turn for a year to get the PCC chief at least, has for last few days, made it clear that he will not put up with being sidelined and his supporters are vociferously making the demand to name him as PCC chief.

The party high command in a quandary to resolve the issue has already held a meeting with Nath. In all likelihood, Scindia will get the PCC chief slot unless Singh puts spanners. Given the recent strain between Singh and Nath after the former was pushed by the Chief Minister in contesting Lok Sabha polls from Bhopal, which he lost, the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister is more likely to put his weight behind Scindia.

In poll-bound Jharkhand, powerful regional satrap Subodhkant Sahay was a pivot to all decisions in past and even this time, the AICC general secretary in-charge for Jharkhand RPN Singh may have to confront Sahay’s say in election matters.

Even in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where the party is out of power for last two decades, different regional satraps call the shots and hence the thinking in Congress is now growing to give the decision making for UP entirely in hands of Priyanka Gandhi, who was made party’s poll in-charge for Western UP during the Lok Sabha polls.

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