State of parties: Faction-ridden Congress pins hope on anti-incumbency, farmers - Hindustan Times
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State of parties: Faction-ridden Congress pins hope on anti-incumbency, farmers

May 15, 2024 05:22 AM IST

Haryana’s principal Opposition party, the Congress, is a divided house. Lack of organisational set up at the district and block levels for the past decade, the inability of the party to act as an effective opposition and pin down the ruling BJP and frequent desertions, the faction-ridden grand old party is often pulled in different directions by party leaders

Indian National Congress

The Congress scored a nought in 2019 and 1999 Lok Sabha polls, even losing former chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s bastion, Rohtak. The 2019 loss can be attributed to Modi wave post Pulwama incident and Balakot air strikes in Pakistan, the Congress rout in 1999 Lok Sabha polls were an outcome of a decisive mandate the BJP got riding on the national sentiment of country’s Kargil War with Pakistan. (HT File)
The Congress scored a nought in 2019 and 1999 Lok Sabha polls, even losing former chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s bastion, Rohtak. The 2019 loss can be attributed to Modi wave post Pulwama incident and Balakot air strikes in Pakistan, the Congress rout in 1999 Lok Sabha polls were an outcome of a decisive mandate the BJP got riding on the national sentiment of country’s Kargil War with Pakistan. (HT File)

Haryana’s principal Opposition party, the Congress, is a divided house with a number of party stalwarts bitterly hostile towards each other. Lack of organisational set up at the district and block levels for the past decade, the inability of the party to act as an effective opposition and pin down the ruling BJP and frequent desertions, the faction-ridden grand old party is often pulled in different directions by the party leaders. However, despite glaring deficiencies, Congress remains the state’s prime challenger to the BJP in the state.

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Report Card

The Congress scored a nought in 2019 and 1999 Lok Sabha polls, even losing former chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s bastion, Rohtak. The 2019 loss can be attributed to Modi wave post Pulwama incident and Balakot air strikes in Pakistan, the Congress rout in 1999 Lok Sabha polls were an outcome of a decisive mandate the BJP got riding on the national sentiment of country’s Kargil War with Pakistan.

The performance of the Congress during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls was also below par when it managed to win only Rohtak Lok Sabha seat out of the 10 it contested. The Congress rode high in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls winning nine seats on both occasions, contributing to the formation of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre twice.

Vote share in 2019 Lok Sabha polls: 28.51%

Number of seats won in 2019: Zero

Vote share in 2014 Lok Sabha polls: 22.99%

Number of seats won in 2014: One

Vote share in 2009 Lok Sabha polls: 41.77%

Number of seats won in 2009: Nine

Vote share in 2004 Lok Sabha polls:42.13%

Number of seats won in 2004: Nine

Vote share in 1999 Lok Sabha polls: 34.93 %

Number of seats won in 1999: Zero

Key state leaders

Bhupinder Singh Hooda (76): The two-time chief minister is the tallest leader in the state unit enjoying the backing of majority of the legislators. The Rohtak strongman, who is the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) in the assembly, was a major influence during party’s ticket distribution for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The former chief minister now carries the onerous task of making the party’s campaign a success in Lok Sabha elections and the upcoming assembly polls in October.

Kumari Selja (61): The former Union minister is a prominent women and Dalit face of the party in Haryana. Selja did not contest the 2014 Lok Sabha election having secured a Rajya Sabha berth before the polls. She lost badly in 2019 from Ambala Lok Sabha seat. She was elevated as the state party president before the 2019 assembly polls but was replaced by Hooda loyalist, Udai Bhan in 2022. Though she has opted to contest from Sirsa Lok Sabha in 2024, Selja has made her intentions clear to play a more proactive role in the state politics.

Randeep Surjewala (56): The All-India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary and in-charge for Karnataka, Randeep Surjewala is also a Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan. He was credited for his efforts to stem infighting during assembly ticket distribution in Karnataka, a state the Congress won in 2023. A former minister during Congress rule of 2005 and 2009 in Haryana, Surjewala was regarded as a powerful minister and a troubleshooter for the government. He remains a hot contender for the top chair if the party is voted to power in October assembly polls.

Region-wise breakup of seats won by the party in 2019: No seats won.

Where the party stands

What Works: The party is primarily banking on the 10-year anti-incumbency of the BJP-led Central and state government to improve its electoral prospects. With a restive farming community opposing the BJP during the poll campaign, the Congress hopes for an overwhelming support from the peasantry. Its hopes also rest on way the Jat voters, who are about 25% in Haryana, vote this time since the JJP and the INLD, the two other political outfits having their base in Jats, looks out of sorts.

What Doesn’t: Factionalism and infighting remain an area of grave concern for the state Congress. The infighting may also dent the prospect of some of the party candidates for the Lok Sabha elections who were chosen ahead of well-established names. Lack of synchronisation in poll campaign and its inability to take on the ruling BJP cohesively may prove to be party’s undoing.

What Are They Up Against: The Congress is pitted against the BJP on all the nine seats it is contesting in Haryana. The party also faces a challenge in terms of division of Jat votes by Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party and Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in certain constituencies.

What Next: The performance of the Congress in Lok Sabha elections on nine Haryana seats will impact its prospects in the Haryana assembly elections, due in October this year.

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