M A I N   N E W S

Hooda to be Haryana CM
Bhajan camp stays away from CLP meeting
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 4
The “giant-killer” from Rohtak, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, will be the new Chief Minister of Haryana. A meeting of the Congress Legislature Party here today, which was attended by 47 of the party’s 67 MLAs, “unanimously” elected Mr Hooda as its leader. 

PCC chief Bhajan Lal and 19 of his loyalist MLAs stayed away from the meeting which began 40 minutes behind schedule. The three central observers — AICC general secretaries Janardan Dwivedi and Ashok Gehlot and Union Power Minister P.M. Sayeed — were present at the meeting which lasted nearly 90 minutes. 

Ms Kartari Devi proposed Mr Hooda’s name which was seconded by former PCC chief Birender Singh and other MLAs. Mr Dwivedi later said the oath-taking ceremony of the new Chief Minister will take place at 5.30 p.m. in Chandigarh tomorrow.

Asked about absence of Mr Bhajan Lal and his loyalists from the meeting, Mr Dwivedi said it could be linked to the PCC chief’s desire of becoming the Chief Minister. He said no action was being contemplated against Mr Bhajan Lal for not attending the meeting.

Asked about the possibility of the state having a Deputy Chief Minister, Mr Dwivedi said these were “matters of detail” which were not taken up at the meeting.

Responding to queries, Mr Dwivedi said the aspirant who had the support of “more MLAs” was chosen to be the Chief Minister.

Speaking about his priorities, Mr Hooda later said he would work to “remove the atmosphere of fear which had gripped the state under the previous regime.” He said the Congress government would fight corruption and work for the state’s development and security and honour of every citizen. “I will work with full honesty to come true to the trust posed in me by Congress president Sonia Gandhi,” he said.

Asked about the absence of Mr Bhajan Lal and his loyalists from the meeting, Mr Hooda said he will try to take everyone along. “Congress is like a family and minor squables take place,” he said.

To another query, Mr Hooda said he would go to meet “buzurg (old)” and veteran leaders including Mr Bhajan Lal and Mr Bansi Lal. He described Mr Birender Singh as his “elder brother.”

Responding to queries about his being an MP, Mr Hooda said he had been in Parliament in his current tenure only for nine months.

“I was Leader of Opposition and PCC chief before that,” he said. Mr Hooda, a four-time MP, has thrice defeated former Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal.

His elevation to the top post in the state is being seen as an effort by the Congress to consolidate its support among the Jat community which has overwhelmingly voted in the favour of the party in the assembly polls.

Mr Bhajan Lal and his loyalists, who had realised by the morning about chief minister’s chair slipping away from their hands, are in a mood to wait for some more time to chalk out their strategy.

Mr Bhajan Lal had met Mrs Sonia Gandhi in the afternoon today apparently to convey his rejection of the “compromise formula” under which he was offered post of Governor with his MLA son possibly getting the berth of Deputy Chief Minister.

Though Mr Bhajan Lal preferred not to comment today over elevation of Mr Hooda as Chief Minister, his supporters did not hesitate to show their resentment.

Mr Mange Ram Gupta, former Minister, said the Congress had recorded resounding victories in Haryana in Lok Sabha and Assembly polls under the leadership of Mr Bhajan Lal and it was unfair to deny him the post of Chief Minister.

He said Mr Bhajan Lal was not interested in any “compensatory posts” and his fight was on a principle.

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |