Come­back Trail

Ex-Congress CM Hooda gets huge re­sponse at ral­lies

India Today - - STATES - By Asit Jolly

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

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