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Haryana braces for volatile times

Haryana’s political scenario is set to change. A close look at the developments of the past few months will help perceive the form the changes may take. Normally, it is the opposition, which usually becomes the driving force in changing political scenarios before the elections. But the ruling Haryana Congress is likely to play a pivotal role, which may not be entirely advantageous for the party, in setting the tone of the perceived changes in the state’s political scenario.

The party is currently afflicted with a deathwish. Being contagious, the malady is taking deeper roots as reflected by the recent episodes of infighting. On the one hand the chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and the hardcore of his detractors led by the union minister Shelja and the Congress working committee member Birender Singh are publicly hurling potshots against each other. Their followers are even resorting to scuffles in the presence of the PCC chief and the central leaders in-charge of the Haryana Congress affairs.

On the other hand, the party’s Gurgaon MP and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Rao Inderjit Singh has threatened to quit the party in protest against the chief minister’s ‘regional bias in development and jobs’ which have hit the people of his constituency. In fact, Hooda’s alleged bias, which he has repeatedly denied, coupled with many more grouses besides the ambitions and aspirations of his other detractors including Shelja and Birender Singh are behind the party’s current factional troubles.            

Rao Inderjit has said the Congress leadership had forced him ‘to look for options outside the party’. His intentions became clear after his daughter’s approaching the Election Commission of India for registration of a new political outfit Haryana Insaaf Congress which will replace the non-political Haryana Insaaf Manch set up by Inderjit Singh a few weeks ago. He may contest the next Lok Subha or Assembly elections on the ticket of his daughter’s newly floated party if he does not get a Congress ticket! His detractors describe his posture as an attempt to ‘blackmail Hooda’ besides being a pressure tactics to get the Congress ticket. Making predictions in politics is a hazardous task. But the recent developments make one thing look certain: There will be changes in the state PCC. Following the intensified inner-party squabbles, pressure has been mounting on the party high command to appoint a new PCC chief in place of the Hooda loyalist Phool Chand Mullana who has been the party chief for nearly six years.  

The next weeks are going to be crucial for the Haryana Congress. The party’s central leadership will have to restructure the state party’s hierarchy much before the ensuing Lok Sabha elections. The foundation of Haryana’s future political scenario was laid by the state’s main opposition party Indian National Lok Dal when it became virtually rudderless after the CBI court sentenced the party’s supremo and former chief minister Om Parkash Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala to 10 years imprisonment in the infamous JBT teachers’ recruitment scam. There are no signs of the INLD recovering from its scam-induced hibernation in the near future. The father-son duo has been in the hospital undergoing treatment. The court has not yet taken a decision on their bail applications. It is a big question mark whether the senior Chautala, the party’s main mass-based Jat leader and vote-catcher, will be able to overcome his health and age-related constraints to regain his activist’s role to help the party recover its lost ground. His return to active politics before the 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections will also depend on, if and when, he gets bail.

The BJP and Haryana Janhit Congress led by the Haryana Janhit Congress led by former chief minister Bhajan Lal’s son Kuldeep Bishnoi which formed an alliance will also play a role in setting the form of the state’s future political scenario.

An influential section of the central BJP leaders had wanted the party to join hands with the INLD. But the jailing of the scam-tainted Chautala duo coupled with the strong opposition of the state BJP leaders forced the central leaders to abandon the move for alliance with INLD. The state BJP chief Ram Bilas Paswan has stated that ‘the alliance between the BJP and HJC will last till the coming elections despite rumours to the contrary.’ But ominous signs have emerged on the relations between the alliance partners. If one goes by the report published in a widely circulated English Daily last week, there is an undercurrent of tension between the alliance’s constituents. The report said that ‘teething troubles between the HJC and BJP continue to dominate party affairs of the saffron party’.

It said that at the party’s state executive meeting at Samalkha held on 17 August ‘senior BJP leaders put in most of their energy trying to seek clarity on the nature of the alliance rather than sort out their own differences.’

The report said that the BJP leadership raised several questions about the ‘fate’ and ‘future’ of the alliance. It noted that both the parties have announced their separate functions on separate issues on October 6. BJP leaders felt that the HJP failed to garner enough votes for the BJP in the Ratia by-election. ‘If the BJP could not depend on the HJC in the Bishnoi-dominated areas, where else the party expect to gain from the alliance’, they bemoaned. If the Congress is afflicted with the death wish, the BJP-HJC alliance has been hit by ‘to be or not to be’ syndrome.

Seen in the backdrop of the above developments, the state’s political scenario is going to witness changers during the run-up to the 2014 elections. Haryana’s political history is a witness to the fact that changes in Haryana politics taking place in extraordinary times have always been volatile. IPA
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