After Punjab, Haryana Congress faces turmoil over BS Hooda
As the Indian National Congress is trying to douse the fire in its Punjab state unit, the party is now facing another crisis in the neighboring Haryana. On Monday, 22 out of 31 Haryana Congress MLAs landed in Delhi seeking a change in the party's state unit. The changes include a bigger role for former state Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in the party.
MLAs met Congress' KC Venugopal at party headquarters
Reportedly, five Haryana Congress MLAs—said to be close to Hooda—met Congress General Secretary (Organization) KC Venugopal on Monday and reportedly demanded the removal of state Congress chief Kumari Selja. The MLAs included BB Batra, BL Saini, Kuldeep Vats, Dr. Raghubir Kadian, and Varun Chowdhury. At the meeting at the party headquarters, the MLAs demanded that Selja be replaced by Hooda.
What did the MLAs discuss at the meeting?
Reportedly, the MLAs said that the party's organization was in shambles in Haryana without district unit chiefs for the last eight years. This interfered with the organizational framework at the grassroots level, they said, according to ThePrint. They complained that they were being ignored by Selja and the organization. Hooda was being sidelined in decisions regarding Congress Zila and block presidents, they added.
MLAs had met Congress Haryana in-charge on Friday
Earlier on Monday, as many as 22 of the 31 Congress MLAs in Haryana had reached Delhi and met Hooda. A band of legislators from the party had also met with the party's Haryana in-charge, Vivek Bansal, on Friday.
Don't see any indiscipline if MLAs meet state in-charge: Selja
In a statement, Selja downplayed the state Congress MLAs' meeting with Bansal, saying that such a meeting was not out of the ordinary. "I don't see any indiscipline if party legislators go and meet the party's state unit in-charge and say something. It is their right. Bansal sahab has later clarified what the meeting was all about," PTI quoted her as saying.
'We have no problem with Kumari Selja'
Speaking to India Today, one of the MLAs said, "It is not true that we have any problem with Kumari Selja. This is a matter which the party high command will act upon. We don't have any role in it."
Why is Hooda important for the Congress party?
Notably, as a two-time CM of Haryana from 2005-2014, Hooda enjoys considerable clout in the state. He is the Leader of Opposition in the state Legislative Assembly. In the 2019 Assembly elections, although the Congress lost, the party bagged 31 out of 90 seats against the BJP's 40 seats, exceeding poll predictions. The performance was credited to Hooda's strong presence, according to political experts.
Selja replaced Ashok Tanwar in 2019
Congress president Sonia Gandhi had first appointed Ashok Tanwar—formerly a Youth Congress president—as the Haryana Congress chief in February 2014. This was viewed as an attempt to promote an alternative to Hooda. However, with Tanwar's poor performance, the position of state party chief was handed over to Selja in 2019, in what was yet again seen as an attempt to minimize Hooda.
What's happening in Punjab?
Trouble is also brewing for the Congress in Punjab where it forms the government. Punjab is witnessing a power tussle between state CM Amarinder Singh and party leader Navjot Singh Sidhu. Singh met Gandhi on Tuesday, where the two reportedly discussed a truce to end infighting in the party. Singh said he will abide by any decision taken by the party.