Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the two-time chief minister of Haryana, is once again the leader on whom the Congress has pinned all its hopes to take on a resurgent BJP in the assembly polls.
The drubbing received by the Congress in the General Elections has a large section of the party ranks convinced that it is heading towards doom, expect for one man – Hooda. The Chief Minister remains confident of coming back to power yet again, despite the land scams and charges of corruption against his government.
However, more than the opposition, it is the internal rebellion against him that appears to be a bigger concern.
Several state Congress leaders point fingers at Hooda to blame him for the sorry state of the party in Haryana. They claim that ever since Hooda became the chief minister he has been focused on doing two things – getting back at those who opposed his appointment and pushing those who could pose a threat to him in the future to a corner.
When Bhajan Lal left Congress after Hooda was made the Chief Minister in 2005, eh had taken with him an army of leaders and party workers. Voices of dissent were heard then as well but no one had dared speak against the CM openly.
This however changed after the Congress failed to secure majority in 2009 polls. Party workers found their voice and expressed their dissent against Hooda publicly claiming that he is a biased CM.
Several party leaders alleged that Hooda discriminated between constituencies in developmental matters and only focused on development work in son Deepender Singh Hooda’s Lok Sabha constituency of Rohtak and its neighbouring areas while ignoring rest of the state. They even accused him on working on a hidden agenda to make other party leader unpopular in the eyes of the electorate.
And the exodus started last year with Panipat MLA Balbir Pal Shah who left the Congress party accusing Hooda of discriminating against his constituency, followed by Kulbir Singh and Karamvir Saini who both alleged of the same discrimination in development.
His rivals within the party claim that their pleas go unheard and Hooda’s blunders are overlooked as he maintains close ties with the party high command.
However, Hooda seems unfazed by all the opposition and charges against him, including Opposition’s charges of favouring Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in land deals. He remarked that he has not allotted even an inch of land to any builder. “It is all false propaganda,” he says.
There was also an unpleasant moment for Hooda recently when he shared the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a foundation stone laying event but was booed by a large crowd after which the furious CM vowed never to share the dais with PM Modi saying that the BJP turned a government function into their own event.
Hooda, meanwhile, has never missed an opportunity to dismiss all the allegations against him and claims that he is responsible for all the developmental work, not individual leaders.
What can give a glimmer of hope to Hooda’s chances of getting a third term are the recent results of the Haryana bypolls which has taken away the aura of invincibility from the BJP after the General Elections. And Hooda didn’t lose the chance to say that the polls results were indicative of which way the political winds are blowing.
Hooda claims that his popularity among voters is a healthy 37 percent and with just two percent more votes he will form the government for the third time denying suggestions that he is facing ‘double anti-incumbency’ for being the Chief Minister of the state for 10 years, despite the Congress winning only one out of ten seats in the Lok Sabha polls and BJP gaining seven and INLD two seats.
With the BJP is looking determined to deny the Congress a third term and growing voices of dissent within the party against the CM, the question that arises is whether the grand old party is banking too much on Bhupinder Singh Hooda to see it through in the Assembly election due in the state?
On the other hand, despite all the negative criticism, Hooda’s level of influence over the people of Haryana cannot be denied and he’s credited with bringing back Congress back in power for a straight second term in a state which has seen government change after every Assembly election since 1972.
But with all the opposition and exodus of party leaders to join BJP, and even the bypolls results going against the saffron outfit, for Hooda to score a hat-trick will be nothing less than a miracle.