Congress counts on Hooda to regain lost ground
Chandigarh: The big challenge before Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is facing a slew of CBI investigations into land acquisition and allotment during his terms as the chief minister, in the upcoming assembly elections is to retain his own bastion of Old Rohtak — assembly seats in the Rohtak, Sonipat and Jhajjar districts of the state.
In 2014, Hooda had managed to steer Congress to victory in 12 assembly seats in his stronholds despite the Modi wave. However, changed equations have turned the tables in favour of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party after his own humiliating defeat in Sonipat Lok Sabha election. The defeat of his son and three-time MP Deepender Singh Hooda from Rohtak, too, was a setback for the Congress strongman.
The CBI and ED cases have added pressure on Hooda, who is facing investigations into five major land allotment and acquisition cases. The CBI has already filed charge sheets in two of the cases and investigation is ongoing in the remaining three.
After months of struggle and threats of a split to the Congress high command, Hooda managed to oust his detractor Ashok Tanwar from the post of Haryana Congress president. He was appointed the legislature party leader and was given the post of the leader of opposition. Despite the Hooda bravado and announcement of a slew of promises at his August 18 rally in Rohtak if he were elected the chief minister, it will be an uphill task for him to retain the assembly seats in his stronghold.
The BJP, flush with its victory in Jat-dominated areas across the state in the Lok Sabha polls, has adopted a special strategy in Rohtak, Jhajjar and Sonipat districts, with all senior party leaders touring the three districts. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah and BJP working president J P Nadda have been visiting the area and have recently addressed rallies and party events here.
According to sources in the BJP, like the parliamentary elections, the party is planning to take on different issues in all nine constituencies in the three districts. Senior ministers Manish Grover, Om Parkash Dhankar and Capt Abhimanyu have been regularly visiting these districts and the BJP has been able to rope in local leaders like INLD’s Sanchit Nandal, Shamsher Kharkhara and Balraj Kundu, and Hooda confidante and former mayor Renu Dabla to join the party and strengthen its base in rural and urban Rohtak.
The BJP has already managed to break the INLD, which has now been reduced to three seats, down from the 19 it had won in 2014. Many senior INLD leaders, including former legislators and parliamentarians, too have joined the BJP and the party’s focus is on these 12 seats in the Hooda bastion.
The Congress has 16 seats in the assembly, including 12 from the Hooda strongholds. These 12 seats had put Hooda in a dominating position had helped him build pressure on the Congress high command to give him control of the party in the state.
@timesgroup.com timesgroup.com timesgroup.com timesgroup.com Dushyant Chautala (R) now leads the breakaway JJP