Haryana: Congress has Khattar on the mat but its own house isn’t in order
The Congress party in Haryana has enough ammunition on hands to take on the Manohar Lal Khattar led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state. It is effectively capitalising on the opportunity being presented to it by the Khattar regime’s ineptitude but the catch here is that the Congress in moving ahead as a divided house and this may bring self inflicted debacle in the long run. Haryana is one of the states that is presenting a window of opportunity to the Congress make political gains in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls scheduled for the next year.
It is a peculiar scenario that can be witnessed with regards to the Congress in the state. To begin with the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge for the state Kamal Nath has been missing from the scene for several months now. He has hardly made an appearance in the party headquarters in Chandigarh or on the ground in the state. The general perception at this point of time is that he would be more concerned about the forthcoming assembly polls in his home turf of Madhya Pradesh than Haryana.
On the ground it is both the rival factions led by the former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and the state unit chief Ashok Tanwar who are engaged in a competition of sorts when it comes to reaching out to the public. The Hooda camp had been demanding that the affairs of the state Congress be placed in the hands of Hooda or one of his loyalists by removing Tanwar from the post. But the recent message coming from party president Rahul Gandhi that there is no move to change the party heads in the states, has emboldened the Tanwar group. Not only did the group celebrate, it has gone into the exercise of giving a new look to the various cells of the party and also putting in place new organisation heads at the local level.
Tanwar recently began with the recasting of the legal cell of the state Congress that had been lying defunct for a long time. This was seen as an act of assertion by his faction as the 26-member executive body of the legal cell under Naveen Sharma is packed with Tanwar loyalists with a very few Hooda followers.
The Hooda followers however see Rahul's message as a temporary arrangement till the time Rahul is well settled in his new post of the Congress president. In fact Hooda demonstrated a show of strength last week when he hosted a lunch for AICC and Haryana leaders. The only prominent faces who were reportedly missing at the event were Tanwar, Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Kiran Chaudhary and Randeep Surjewala. ,
Over the last few months Hooda has held a series of Kisan and Dalit panchayats reaching out to the farmers and the marginalised sections of the society and attacking the BJP regime in the state. He along with the other Congress leaders has now stepped up the attacks on the issue of the prevailing dismal law and order situation in the state particularly with the glaring instances of rape coming to light on daily basis. He has also announced a Rath Yatra that is to be taken out in the coming days.
Tanwar on the other hand also has plans to carry out Cycle Yatras besides organising Manthan Shivirs. He has also announced plans to gherao Khattar and BJP's national president Amit Shah in the days to come.
But the main challenge for central leadership of the Congress would be to bring these warring factions on a common platforms if the Congress is keen to form the next government in the state.
“The people in the state are very disillusioned with the present regime. The Jats that form a major chunk of the electorate, have made up their minds to vote one sided. If they see Hooda as the Congress leader they will rally behind the Congress otherwise they have the option of rallying behind the Chautala family of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD),” points out veteran political analyst Balwant Takshak.
Takshak further points out that Kiran Chaudhary is another leader who stands at an advantage amid Congress factionalism. “Given her family background she is one of the contenders for the chief ministerial post if the Congress comes into power. She will have to present herself as the potential candidate to the electorate on her home turf in Bhiwani. If she stands with Hooda at this point of time she will be not seen as a potential candidate for the top post but as a Hooda supporter. In any case if Hooda gets the top post she always has the chance to be among the top leaders in the state cabinet,” he added.
Tanwar and Chaudhary met Rahul on Friday where they have reportedly requested him to hold a rally in Haryana soon. A good public rally in the state would spell the launch the Congress campaign in the state. The opportunity in Haryana is something that the Congress cannot afford to lose. With the Khattar regime standing out as a poor performer, there are enough issues at hand to put it down on the mat.