Ex-Congress CM Hooda gets huge response at rallies
Less than four years after they voted him out—and with the Congress’s lowest tally in the state ever at that—Haryanvis are coming out in droves again to Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s rallies. The two-term chief minister, who launched his Jan Kranti Yatra from Hodal on February 26, says he is “intent on wiping the BJP off the face of Haryana”. Upturning the BJP’s ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ slogan, he is already causing some consternation amid the saffron leadership.
In Mahendergarh in mid-August, thronged by thousands of Jat farmers, Hooda pressed home the early advantage. “The BJP leaders claim their government is performing well. If that were the case, why are people coming to me?” he asked, drawing huge applause.
The former CM confidently lists the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government’s “failures”. And while he talks about the disillusionment of every section of the people, the focus is always on the farmers and Dalits. Citing the BJP’s failure to fulfil its main poll promise on implementing the M.S. Swaminathan Commission report findings, Hooda clearly touches a chord when he says, “This chief minister has absolutely no notion about the plight of the farmers.”
The response is just as thunderous when he reminds the crowd how “Haryana was left to burn three times under Khattar’s watch”. From the violence during Kabirpanthi godman Rampal’s arrest in 2014, the Jat quota agitation in 2016, to arson and deaths following the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in August 2017, he says, “Khattar and his government failed miserably every single time”.
With the Jat-centric Indian National Lok Dal still in a flux (party chief Om Prakash Chautala is in jail for corruption), Hooda is emerging as the face of the state’s dominant community. He’s also getting support from Dalits and other castes. Even the legal troubles he faces—allegations of corruption in land deals during his tenure—are widely viewed as ‘vendetta’ by the BJP leadership. Analysts say after the victory in Punjab, Hooda could give the Congress its second big comeback in Haryana, where elections are due in late 2019.
ON THE MOVE Hooda at the Jan Kranti Yatra rally launch in Hodal