Chandigarh, April 18, 2019-
An initiative by the Congress party in-charge for Haryana, Ghulam Nabi Azad, backed by a firm message from the high command to the highly factionalised party leadership in Haryana, has brought the warring Congress leaders together – at least for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.
With the Congress facing an uphill task of trying to recover lost ground from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ‘unity’ of the Congress leaders is being seen as the only hope for the party as all the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana go to the polls on May 12.
Azad, a former Union Health Minister and former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, had his task cut out after he was named the Congress in-charge for Haryana as late as January this year. He took over from another senior Congress leader, Kamal Nath, who is currently the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister.
With just three months to go for the Lok Sabha polls and less than 10 months for the assembly elections in Haryana, Azad hit the ground running to ensure that the party presented a picture of unity before taking on other political parties.
Last month, Azad made all the top leaders from the party come together on a common platform – a bus – for a six-day (March 26-31) whirlwind tour of Haryana called the “Parivartan Yatra”.
Former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who led the state from 2005 till 2014, and is considered the strongest leader in the party with a pan-Haryana appeal, could be seen sharing his seat on the bus journey with Haryana Congress President and former MP Ashok Tanwar.
Leaders of others factions in the party – Kiran Chaudhary, Kumari Selja, Randeep Singh Surjewala and Ajay Singh Yadav – were also part of the bus tour.
“We have followed the Andhra-Karnataka model in taking all leaders around the state in one bus. The Congress is united in Haryana. We had people waiting eagerly even past midnight. The Yatra got an overwheliming response,” Azad said.
As a fallout of the Azad initiative, the leaders of the various factions have stopped working as cross-purposes in the run-up to the elections.
“We will repeat our earlier performance of winning the Lok Sabha elections. The party leadership is united,” Hooda told.
One leader missing on the bus tour was former MP Kuldip Bishnoi, the younger son of former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal. Bishnoi, however, had turned up at Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s rally in Jagadhri town in Yamunanagar district on March 29, to end speculation about his leaving the Congress fold.
Tanwar said that the unity effort by Azad had “energised” the party leadership and the cadre.
“He (Azad) has made all the leaders sit in one bus and has energised everyone,” Tanwar said.
The Congress had won only one seat in the 2014 general elections – Rohtak – through its candidate Deepinder Singh Hooda. With Bhupinder Singh Hooda as Chief Minister during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the party had won nine out of 10 seats in the state.
The BJP won seven Lok Sabha seats in 2014, while the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) bagged two seats. (Agency)