New Delhi: Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Friday faced the ire of his detractors as groupism in the state Congress unit came to the fore in a meeting of a high-level panel of the party to assess reasons for Congress debacle in Lok Sabha polls.
The A K Antony panel also held discussion with leaders from Punjab, who cited the emergence of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) there after Arvind Kejrwal government in Delhi promised an SIT monitored probe, as a major reason for Congress` inability to cash in on the anti-incumbency mood against SAD-Akali Dal government in the state.
In both states, internal dissension was cited as a major reason for the party`s debacle besides the national mood of anti-incumbency against UPA and a Narendra Modi wave.
Besides the two states, Congress General Secretary Shakeel Ahmed, who is a senior leader from Bihar and incharge of Delhi as well, briefed the Antony panel about reasons for Congress defeat in the two states. The panel has already met other leaders of Bihar and Delhi.
There is a view in a section of Congress that it did not benefit from alliance with Lalu Prasad`s RJD in Bihar in this Lok Sabha polls and should hitch its wagon to Nitish Kumar`s JD(U) for the upcoming Assembly polls next year.
While senior leaders cited internal dissension in Haryana as one of the reasons for the 1-10 performance of the party in Hooda-ruled Haryana, leaders like Chaudhary Birender Singh and Avtar Singh Bhadana blamed it on the Chief Minister`s style of functioning.
They are learnt to have told the A K Antony panel that the next election in Haryana should not be fought under Hooda`s leadership.
Bhadana, a former MP from Faridabad, who lost the election to BJP`s Krishnapal Gurjar this time, alleged that the Chief Minister was in league with Gurjar to ensure his defeat.
Badhana told after the meeting that he as well as many leaders have told the Antony panel that while they have full faith in the leadership of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, "We are not ready to fight election under Hooda`s leadership. If the arrangement continues, we will not fight the next election."
Bhadana alleged that the Chief Minister, his relatives and people close to him goaded BJP candidates to work out the defeat of party nominees, while "Hooda worked only to ensure the victory of his son Dipender Hooda" from Rohtak.
"I have given proofs in writing to the panel and also voiced doubt that Hooda can have similar understanding with Gurjar in Assembly polls," he said.
Rajya Sabha MP Chaudhary Birender Singh, a known detractor of Hooda also voiced similar sentiments before the panel.
Recently there was a strong buzz about change of guard in Haryana but the party later ruled it out.
Addressing `Insaaf Rally` in Jind a few days back, Birender Singh had said he will not contest the October Assembly elections under Hooda`s leadership.
Following the ruling Congress` dismal showing in Haryana in the Lok Sabha elections, Singh and a few other state party leaders, including former Union Minister Kumari Selja, have openly challenged Hooda`s leadership.
Selja could not attend the meeting today as she was abroad. She had earlier said Hooda should have offered to resign after the party`s poor show in Lok Sabha polls.
Of the total 10 seats in the state, the party managed to retain just the Rohtak seat in the 2014 elections as against the nine it had won in 2009.
BJP won seven of the eight seats it contested this time, while two seats were bagged by main opposition Indian National Lok Dal. However, a senior AICC functionary asserted that so far there is no consideration about changing the Chief Minister in Haryana.
In Punjab, AAP won four out of the 13 Lok Sabha seats springing a surprise in political circles and dashing hopes of Congress, which had expected good show in the state where SAD-BJP combine faced strong anti-incumbency.
AAP picked up an impressive 24.4 per cent of the vote share in the state. Though Congress tally fell to three from eight MPs in 2009, it still retained the highest vote share at 33.1 per cent.
Starting a soul-searching exercise following its worst-ever Lok Sabha poll result, the panel has so far met leaders from Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal Haryana and Punjab.
This is an informal group set up by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and has besides Antony, AICC General Secretary Mukul Wasnik and secretaries R C Khuntia and Avinash Pandey as members.