Chandigarh: The embarrassing defeat of Congress nominee Ajay Maken in the June 10 Haryana Rajya Sabha election is being seen as a big loss of face for former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is currently Congress legislature party (CLP) leader in the state assembly.
Hooda is being seen to have not only failed in his first test after getting complete control of the party after the recent revamp of the Congress but also in ensuring that all the legislators’ votes were cast properly; while the cross-voting by Kuldeep Bishnoi, a known Hooda detractor, was writing on the wall, another Congress vote was also found to be invalid that led to Maken's defeat.
Bishnoi’s rebellion was evident for some time. He had been absent from the party programmes for some time and even skipped the last week’s flight of all the Congress legislators’ to Raipur, Chhattisgarh, undertaken to check horse-trading.
With one independent MLA’s absence and one rejected vote of Congress, the House had 88 votes with each vote having a value of 100. Since a candidate required 2,934 votes to win, BJP’s Krishan Panwar won with 3,600 votes while Maken got, 2,900. However, with the help of votes of BJP coalition partner Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), Independents, one each of Kuldeep Bishnoi, Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP), Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the remaining votes of Panwar, independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma's votes value totalled at 2300 votes. But with 666 points as per the second preference norms his votes’ value rose to 2,966, snatching the seat from Maken by a whisker.
Kartikeya, a son of former senior Congress leader Venod Sharma, is the younger brother of Manu Sharma who was convicted in the infamous Jessica Lal murder case.
BISHNOI’s EXIT TO ADD HOODA’s WOES
Even as angered Congress high command has expelled Bishnoi from all the party posts for his cross-voting, if he quits the party, it would not only dent the party’s non-Jat vote bank in Haryana but also increase Hooda's stranglehold.
Even though he has neither been sacked from the party nor has he himself quit it, conjectures are galore that he may join BJP in days to come.
Bishnoi, a four-time MLA and two-time MP, is the younger son of former Congress chief minister late Bhajan Lal, the tallest non-Jat leader of the state who remained Haryana CM thrice and also Union minister. Bhajan Lal family has never lost the Adampur assembly seat (district Hisar) which has either been represented by late Bhajan Lal his wife Jasma Devi, Kuldeep Bishnoi or his wife Renuka. Kuldeep Bishnoi is currently MLA from Adampur.
After merging his Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) into Congress in 2016, Bishnoi was expecting a befitting post but had been annoyed for some time with party high command for being ignored. He had also made futile efforts to meet Rahul Gandhi after the party’s state body was revamped a few weeks ago when Udai Bhan, a confidante of Hooda was made the state party chief replacing Kumari Selja.
Aside from Bishnoi, there are also said to be several leaders within the party who have their own camps. They include Kumari Selja, a Dalit leader and at least two Jat leaders, Randeep Surjewala and Kiran Choudhry.
Though Hooda has a strong backing of over 15 legislators and command in Jat heartland – Sonepat, Rohtak and Jhajjar – there has also been dissension among some party leaders against Hooda for allegedly promoting his son Deepender Hooda, a three-time MP, Rohtak, who is currently Rajya Sabha member from Haryana.