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Cong High Command performs balancing act
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 14
The Congress list of candidates for the Haryana Assembly elections, at the first glance, gives the impression that the former Chief Minister, Mr Bhajan Lal, has outmanoeuvred his opponents within the party by cornering a major chunk of the seats for his men.

However, at the second glance, it becomes apparent that the high command has played a game in which no faction can claim to be an outright winner. While the factions led by the Surjewalas and Mr Birender Singh, former Haryana Congress President, have been reduced to the status of minor players, the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-Selja-Rao Inderjit combine has managed to emerge as the second largest gainer.

The Bhajan and Hooda factions have reasons to pat themselves, and at the same time they donít have much to celebrate. If Mr Bhajan Lal has managed the ticket for Mr Dharam Pal Malik, his Man Friday, from Gohana, Bhupinder successfully blocked the nomination of Mr Krishan Murti Hooda, a close associate of the former Chief Minister, from his traditional Assembly constituency of Kiloi in Rohtak district. Both leaders have failed to get the ticket for many of their prominent supporters, though Mr Hooda has been virtually given a free hand in the Rohtak Parliamentary constituency.

The party has nominated 32 new faces, including the wives or sons of those who lost last two elections, a condition which disqualified many a leader seeking the ticket. It is another matter that the party relaxed the condition in certain cases like Mr Phool Chand Mullana and Mr Malik.

According to a report from Delhi, the party is likely to change its candidate from Hassangarh, Mr Chakravarty Sharma, former president of the Haryana Youth Congress. Now the ticket may go to Mrs Rekha Singh, wife of Prof Varinder Singh, who had been contesting from Hassangarh and is close to Mr Hooda. With this the number of women fielded by the Congress will go up to 10.

As many as 27 candidates belong to the Jat community.

Two father-son duo will be contesting from the Congress side. Apart from Mr Bhajan and his son, Chander Mohan, Mr Randeep Singh Surjewala, working president of the party, and his father, Mr Shamsher Singh Surjewala, will also try their luck. Three members ó Mr Ranbir Singh Mahindra and Mr Surender Singh (both sons), and Mr Somvir Singh (son-in-law) of the Bansi Lal family ó will also be in the fray. However, Mr Mahindra, Chairman of the Board of Cricket Control of India, has not got the ticket because of Mr Bansi Lal. He had been in the Congress since long and is close to Mr Bhajan Lal.

There is speculation that another member of the Bansi Lal family, Mrs Kiran Choudhary, wife of Mr Surender Singh, is a hot contender for the Gurgaon seat, for which the party has not yet announced its candidate.

Many leaders have managed the ticket for their relatives. Mr Paramvir Singh, son of a former Haryana Congress President, Mr Harpal Singh, will contest from Tohana. Mr Yadvendra Singh, a brother of the Union Minister of State for External Affairs, Rao Inderjit, will contest from Jatusana. The MP from Hisar, Mr Jai Prakash Barwala, has got the ticket for his brother, Randhir Singh, from Barwala. Mr Bhajan Lal also got the ticket for his nephew, Mr Dura Ram, from Fatehabad. However, his case is a bit different. Mr Dura Ram contested the Fatehabad Assembly byelection when no Congress leader was coming forward to bell the cat.

Perhaps Mr Hooda is the only prominent leader who did not recommend the name of any of his family members for the ticket. His nominee from Kiloi, Mr Sri Krishan Hooda, is not related to him.

Those Independent candidates who joined the Congress at the time of the Rajya Sabha or a little before have been left in the lurch. Only two such MLAs, Mr Karan singh Dalal (Palwal) and Mr Udey Bhan (Hassanpur), have been renominated by the Congress.

Barring Mrs Sumita Singh, president of the Mahila Congress, no head of any front organisation has been given the ticket. The president of the Haryana Youth Congress, Mr Satwinder Singh Sandhu, and the Chairman of the Minority Department, Mr Jagdip Singh Cheema, who was instrumental in organising Mr Bhajan Lalís visit to the Golden Temple, are licking their wounds.

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