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Why Cong may consider Selja as next Haryana CM

October 22, 2009 23:38 IST
Union minister Kumari Selja is being considered as a compromise candidate for the top post in Haryana.

Highly placed sources in the Congress party claim that the dramatic results of the assembly election may force the party to alter the state leadership.

The Congress, which under the leadership of Bhupinder Singh Hooda, stopped at 40 seats and now needs the support of former CM Bhajan Lal's Haryana Janhit Congress-BL which has 6 MLAs; there is no way that Bhajan Lal would accept Hooda as the Chief Minister.

Apart from that, a senior Congress leader said that the assessment at 10 Janpath is that the Jats did not vote for the Congress party beyond Rohtak, and most of the Jat votes went to Om Prakash Chautala whose Indian National Lok Dal has put up an impressive show with 32 seats.

Sources said it is time once again to consolidate the non-Jat vote in Haryana, who has been the traditional supporter and mainstay of the Congress. The Jats have never been big-backers of the Congress, whether it is Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan or Punjab.

Even in the last elections, it was the non-Jat vote which came out in bulk for the Congress party as Bhajan Lal was the Pradesh Congress Committee chief and seen to be the next chief minister; but the 'managers' around the Congress President Sonia Gandhi managed to overturn that verdict and instead brought in Hooda as the chief minister, who was merely an MP and nowhere on the electoral scene at that time.

During the last five years, Hooda projected an invincible image of himself, flooding the media with a deluge of advertisements and keeping the managers around 10 Janpath 'happy and contended,' so much so that they are still singing his praises. The line being fed is still that 'Hooda is the only leader' and that 'Hooda will manage.'

But sources say that while Hooda was given a free hand, the electoral verdict in Haryana is against Hooda and his style of governance. 10 Janpath is said to be of the view that a chief minister who has brought the party tally down from 67 seats to 40, can certainly not be rewarded by making him the top man again.

While the Congress has the advantage of being the single largest party with the Governor most likely to call the it to form the government, they also have the support of 4 of the 7 independent MLAs; and coupled with the 6 of Bhajan Lal's HJC-BL, the Congress should have enough of a buffer zone to see them through.

Sources say that this buffer zone is necessary because Chautala will be on the war-path having won 32 seats. He wants to form the government through whichever way possible, and for this he is even willing to offer HJC-BL leader Kuldeep Bishnoi the chief ministership, other portfolios and huge amounts of attractions to party MLAs -- so that the government can run on his terms. The Congress cannot afford it.

If made, Selja would be the first dalit woman chief minister of the state, and it would also help the party not only in Haryana but also in other states, as she would be seen as a significant counter to Bahujan Samaj Party chief and UP CM Mayawati's brand of dalit politics.

Interestingly, many of the other senior Jat leaders in the Congress lost, prominent of which were Birender Singh (who was defeated by INLD chief Chautala in Uchana Kalan seat in Jind by a slender margin of 621 votes) and many others. This is being attributed to Hooda, who is reported to have put up rebel candidates against many of his senior colleagues, as he wanted to avert any serious Jat challenge emerging from within the Congress.

The other serious candidate who has also joined the race to become the next CM is Kiran Chaudhary, a fiery Jatni, who is the daughter-in-law of former CM Bansi Lal and a known opponent and critic of Hooda. He is reported to have tried his best to have Kiran defeated as well.

Image: Union minister Kumari Selja

Renu Mittal in New Delhi