The results for the two Rajya Sabha seats from Haryana have not only raised questions over Haryana Congress satrap Bhupinder Hooda’s ability to keep the flock together but also widened the cracks in the party.
Despite having 31 MLAs, and indulging in resort politics well ahead of polling day, the Congress failed to win a Rajya Sabha berth for Ajay Maken, leaving the party leadership red-faced. While a 1-1 scorecard for the BJP and Congress should have been the outcome given that the latter had the numbers, fissures within the state unit ensured that the second seat went to Kartikeya Sharma, the Independent candidate backed by the BJP, instead.
What was more embarrassing for the party was that not only did a disgruntled party MLA from Adampur, Kuldeep Bishnoi, cross-vote, but another vote of a Congress MLA was held invalid, reducing the party numbers to 29 and allowing Sharma to scrape through.
Bishnoi hitting back after being side-lined during the rejig of the state unit recently seemed to be a foregone conclusion, but the invalidation of another vote triggered conspiracy theories within the party with murmurs doing the rounds of a senior Congress leader having “deliberately” cast an invalid vote.
The drama that unfolded on voting day was preceded by open threats and heartbreak for a section of leaders, when on April 27, the Congress leadership revamped the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC), appointing Hooda aide Udai Bhan as the new state unit president, thereby giving a free hand to Hooda.
While Hooda seemed to have been given complete control over the state unit, the development left Bishnoi and his supporters seething. The Adampur MLA, barring a few tweets of disappointment, refused to reveal his cards till the last moment, but eventually went against the party candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls.
The party high command, in a bid to balance the caste equations and also avoid any cross-voting in the polls, had decided to field another senior Haryana Congress leader, Randeep Surjewala, a bitter rival of Hooda, from Rajasthan, while nominating Ajay Maken, a known loyalist of the Gandhis, from Haryana.
Hooda was given the responsibility to ensure Maken’s victory. For the senior Hooda and his son Deepender, ensuring victory for Maken became a crucial element to stamp their authority on the state unit. But Kuldeep Bishnoi seemed to have marked out his strategy quite well.
A sulking Bishnoi had got the clear indication that the Gandhis were not willing to succumb to pressure from his supporters. So when he did not get any appointment with party leader Rahul Gandhi, the son of former Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal decided to spoil the party for Hooda.
And while the Congress was struggling to keep its flock together, the BJP seemed to have finalised its operation Haryana quite well. Kartikeya Sharma was backed initially by the JJP, but he subsequently got the support of the Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP dispensation, six Independent MLAs, and one MLA each from the INLD and Haryana Lokhit Party.
With inputs from News18