Ready to hug Hooda, says Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar

Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar, on Monday, offered to bury “political and personal differences” with his key rival Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The move comes in the wake of a worried Congress central leadership making efforts to contain the raging factional feud in the state.

Tanwar’s gesture to end hostilities with the Rohtak strongman and former chief minister, Hooda, is significant. Not only it is for the first time that the beleaguered state party president has extended the olive branch, but the timing of this signal is important.

While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has suddenly accelerated its political activities via its numerous ‘Connect with Constituents’ programmes to mobilise its well-oiled cadre for the Lok Sabha polls next year, Hooda has been flexing political muscle through his ‘Rath Yatras’ with the sole objective of forcing the party high command to replace Tanwar as the party president.

“I am in favour of resolving the differences with Hooda…time is a great healer,” Tanwar, a Dalit leader and former MP, said during an interaction with a select group of reporters. “I have both political as well as personal differences with Hooda. These political differences got converted into personal differences.”

At the root of “personal differences” that Tanwar repeatedly referred to is the October 2016 episode. Then, Tanwar had sustained injuries during a scuffle in Delhi between his and Hooda’s supporters. Tanwar had to be admitted to hospital.

The supporters of Hooda and Tanwar had attacked each other with sticks over display and putting up of posters and banners of their respective leaders near Bhairon Mandir, while waiting for Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Kisan yatra’ to arrive there. Since then, both leaders have been at daggers drawn, desperately attempting to put each other on the mat.

In the recent past, Tanwar disclosed, certain senior party leaders had made attempts to iron-out his differences with Hooda. He indicated that the peace talks were not fully fruitful.

“In the larger interest of the party, we should bury our differences,” Tanwar reiterated, in a clear indication that steps were afoot to end the factionalism in Haryana Congress. On a query on different claimants to head the state unit, he said: “Slowly all will reconcile.”

The Haryana Congress is a divided house with rampant infighting to become state party chief. While Hooda and Tanwar have been locking horns with each other openly and frequently, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Kiran Choudhry, All-India Congress Committee (AICC) chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala and former Union minister Kumari Selja are other key leaders, who are in the race to head the party.

The real challenge to Tanwar is from Hooda, the most prominent Jat leader of the Congress. And the Jats play a decisive role in Haryana politics.

Tanwar, however, expressed cautious optimism over continuing as state party chief till state assembly elections, otherwise due next year in October. “Some vested interests create confusion on the leadership issue…Rahul Gandhi has cleared the matter…I am confident that the Congress in Haryana will fight the Lok Sabha and assembly elections under my leadership,” he said, pointing out that being out of power, is the time best time to groom new leadership.

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