M A I N   N E W S

Fight for CM’s seat hots up in Haryana
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 7
After seeking support from the electorate, Congress leaders, eyeing the chief minister’s gaddi in Haryana, are now pleading their case before the party leadership.

Several chief ministerial candidates, including Mr Birendra Singh, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda and father-son duo of Mr S.S. Surjewala and Mr Randeep Surjewala, were spotted at the AICC headquarters today.

The three leaders had separate meetings with senior party leaders including Mrs Ambika Soni, Mr Janardan Dwivedi and Mr Motilal Vora. Although described as a “courtsey call”, the real purpose of this mission was not lost on the leaders.

It is no secret that the Haryana Congress unit is enmeshed in factionalism and there are at least six to seven contenders for the Chief Minister’s post. With all exit polls pointing to a Congress victory and with three weeks to go for the declaration of the results, the battle between the Chief Ministerial aspirants is expected to intensify in the coming days. In fact, a beginning was made today when Haryana leaders briefed the AICC office bearers about how their rivals in the party sabotaged the election of official party candidates.

As of now, PCC chief and Haryana strongman Bhajan Lal enjoys a clear edge in the race for the top job as he is learnt to have garnered a major chunk of tickets for his supporters. On the other hand, he has enough rivals in the party who are just waiting to edge him out.

Although state leaders like Mr Birendra Singh, Mr Hooda, Ms Selja and Mr Surjewala are not known to be on the best of terms with each other, they can call temporary truce in order to keep out Mr Bhajan Lal. In such a situation, Union Minister Selja could well emerge as a consensus candidate.

A candidate’s support base among the MLAs may be an important factor but the final decision rests with Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Those pushing Ms Selja’s candidature maintain that by putting a scheduled caste at the helm of affairs would not only help consolidate the Congress support base among the SCs but would also make it difficult for BSP chief Mayawati to make inroads here. Alternatively, those canvassing for Mr Birendra Singh are saying that he will be the right choice if the Congress is to retain Jat support. 

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