For Congress, all roads in Haryana lead to Hooda

Former Haryana Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda greets his supporters during a rally before filing his nomination papers for the forthcoming Assembly polls, in Rohtak, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Whether it was allocating party tickets or cutting dissenters down to size in Haryana, the Congress high command had little recourse other than relenting to the writ of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. 

Nearly 60% of the 90 candidates fielded by the party for the upcoming polls in Jatland are Hooda’s loyalists.

Given the falling political stock of the party in Haryana, the Congress central leadership weighed the risks and rewards in letting Hooda have his way.

While having Hooda in the saddle still doesn't guarantee the party a win, the party high command, which is arguably bereft of leaders in Haryana, saw in Hooda someone who could consolidate the party cadre, its leaders and give the Congress hope of reviving its fortunes.

Barring his recent arm-twisting tactics against the party, Hooda is known to be a staunch Gandhi family loyalist. The storm over land deals involving realty major DLF and Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra happened during Hooda’s term as chief minister.

The controversy over the Associate Journal Limited (AJL) land re-allotment also occurred during Hooda’s tenure. All these controversies were linked to the Gandhi family in some way or the other which also increased Hooda's indispensability with the Gandhis. 

Call it political vendetta or otherwise, Hooda today faces a slew of cases by the CBI, all in the last 5-years of BJP rule. At Hooda’s behest, the Congress took the gamble to axe state congress chief Ashok Tanwar, a Dalit. Despite his belligerent protest outside 10 Janpath, Tanwar failed to have his way.

Hooda knew the threat from Tanwar would be imminent at some stage, which is why the list of party nominees has a sizable number of SC and BC candidates.

Contrary to the BJP’s strategy of polarizing non-Jat votes, Hooda is majorly focusing on polarization of Jat votes, who constitute more than 25% of voters. The party is hoping to capitalize on the likely shift of the Jat votes from the INLD to the Congress. The INLD is in dire straits after a family feud in the Chautala family. 

Against 17 seats given to Jats by the BJP, the Hooda has also ensured nearly double the seats to Jat candidates this time around.  

Assembly elections 2019 | Get the latest news, views and analysis on elections in Haryana and Maharashtra on DeccanHerald.com


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