Bhupindra Singh Hooda on rebellion mode: What it means for Congress?

Asserting his ‘nationalist’ credentials, Congress stalwart gave a big thumbs-up to Modi government for scrapping Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and differed with his own partymen for finding faults with Center’s J&K move.

Written by August 26, 2019 21:45

Bhupinder Singh Hooda, apparently the tallest Congress leader in Haryana and two-time state Chief Minister, set off ripples of protest in the grand-old party with his recent Rohtak rally. Seen as nothing short of rebellion against the high-command, Hooda launched scathing criticism of party before public saying that ‘Congress has lost its way.’

Asserting his ‘nationalist’ credentials, the Congress stalwart gave a big thumbs-up to Modi government for scrapping Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and differed with his own partymen for finding faults with Center’s J&K move.

His sharpest criticism of his own party comes months ahead of the assembly elections in Haryana. Some view it as symbolic rebellion, aimed at snatching party control from current PCC chief Ashok Tanwar while others see it as direct revolt against the young leaders who took control of the party before 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Hooda’s Rohtak rally was planned even when Rahul Gandhi was the party president. It was Rahul who appointed ‘young’ Tanwar as the Haryana party unit chief.

Hooda, who sees himself as the tallest leader of the state, was never able to make peace with the fact that a ‘young, inefficient’ leader held sway over him and others. And, this despite Tanwar-led state unit faltering in electoral strategies and losing out key battles in political arena. Ashok Tanwar has not failed to contain party’s flagging fortunes but couldn’t find a rallying point against the incumbent Khattar government.

At the Rohtak rally, Hooda didn’t make any declaration on severing ties with party but gave ample hints of his intentions. His message to the Congress high command is clear – ‘make me party’s face or I will break away.’ His open threat has put the top leadership in tight spot.

Congress, which is already grappling with leadership crisis at national level, can’t afford to lose out in upcoming state elections on back of bickering and infighting within the party. Congress leadership wants to avert any kind of vertical split, wants to bring detractors and dissenters on same page, but that looks difficult now. Also, giving in to Hooda’s demands will make the high-command look weak and fragile.

If Hooda’s arm-twisting of the party works the other way, the Congress stalwart also runs risk of being left out and going solo in the polls. Observers see it as a calculated risk as Sonia and Rahul would refrain from side-lining such veteran crowd-pullers. Political analysts see Hooda striking at an opportune time to drive the hard bargain.

Infighting and lack of synergy within Haryana Congress has been its bugbear but it has been getting worse in last few years. Though there are many influential families and leaders with strong oratory skills but the Hooda-camp remains the most powerful and strongly connected to the grassroots.

Moreover, Hooda’s connect with Jat vote base puts him at advantage, as they play pivotal role in Haryana’s electoral dynamics. A little nationalist tilt in poll campaign will help him strike chord with the voters easily.

Now, it is to be seen how interim president Sonia Gandhi handles the current implosion in party. Will she give in to Hooda’s demands or will she take him to task for the munity.