Haryana Congress Heaves a Sigh of Relief After Udai Bhan Takes Charge But Cracks Remain

In a show of strength, the Congress tried to pitch an installation ceremony for newly appointed Haryana chief Udai Bhan on Wednesday but the event couldn’t cover the cracks in the state unit, which underwent a rejig recently.

Bhan, 67, a known loyalist of Leader of Opposition and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, was handed over the reins after his bitter rival and Dalit leader Kumari Selja resigned from the post.

Bhan took out a roadshow before the installation but apart from Hooda and his son Deepender, leaders of all major factions were conspicuous by their absence.

The Haryana unit has been plagued by internecine feud over organisational control with Hooda and his son and Rajya Sabha MP, Deepender Singh, trying to assert their dominance in the state Congress. Earlier, indications had emerged that either of the two would take over as the state unit chief but fearing infighting a compromise was struck with Bhan’s appointment.

As part of the compromise formula, along with Bhan, four working presidents representing different groups in the faction-ridden Haryana unit were chosen. But trouble seems to be far from over. The party is already facing anger from supporters of Adampur (Hisar) MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi, son of former CM Bhajan Lal.

Bishnoi is considered to be a strong non-Jat leader and was hoping to be picked up for the top slot. He has already expressed his disappointment at the rejig though falling short of quitting the party. He has asked his followers to exercise ‘restraint’ for now. Top Haryana leaders, who seem to be putting their weight behind Bishnoi, include Randeep Surjewala.

On Sunday, AICC general secretary in charge of communication, Randeep Singh Surjewala, who hails from Haryana, made an intriguing statement while addressing a news conference in Chandigarh that “Kuldeep Bishnoi would have been the best state unit president”. He, however, clarified later that it was his “personal comment”.

A Jat stalwart, Hooda had been seeking Selja’s removal for a long time. After a debacle in Punjab, the high command did not want to take any chance in neighbouring Haryana and seemed to have adopted a caste balance by putting a Dalit leader, backed by a Jat leader, in charge.

Among senior Haryana Congress leaders, both Surjewala, a Jat leader, and Bishnoi, a prominent non-Jat face, are also believed to be chief ministerial aspirants. By throwing his weight behind Bishnoi, Surjewala wants to ensure that the Hooda camp does not have a free run with Bhan’s elevation.

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