M A I N   N E W S

Tough year for Hooda
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 24
Bhupinder Singh Hooda completes the first year of his second term as Chief Minister of Haryana on Monday, October 25. But no celebrations are planned by a government which celebrates almost everything.

Hooda explains that though technically Monday does mark the first anniversary of the second term of his government in the state, he deems it a continuation of the government, which was first formed on March 5, 2005. He would rather celebrate the sixth anniversary in March next year, he quipped.

The Chief Minister told The Tribune that in his first term, his government’s focus was on power and claimed that “no previous government had seriously pursued the agenda before”. The new power plants, he reiterated, will start getting commissioned in the next few months. During this term, his government would focus on the optimum utilisation of water, he added. Water is scarce and must be used judiciously, rued the CM, pointing out that people continue to leave taps running.

But while Hooda sounded both confident and content, perhaps even complacent, the Opposition is not ready to give him any credit. The power position in the state is still critical, says Haryana BJP President Krishan Pal Gurjar, although Hooda had promised round-the-clock power supply within three years. The farmers in the state, he alleges, have lost out due to the Land Acquisition Policy and are living in constant fear. The law and order situation in the state has also worsened, he points out.

But the Chief Minister brushed aside the criticisms, declaring that the past one year was devoted to consolidation. He is proud of the land acuisition policy, which has been hailed as a model and was appreciated by Rahul Gandhi. Indeed the policy is likely to become the model for a central law being framed.

Hooda began the first year of his second term last year on both positive and negative notes. He became the first Chief Minister in the state since 1977 to secure a successive second term in office. But he had no occasion to savour the moment because the Congress could win only 40 seats in the house of 90.

Only a few months earlier, the Congress had made a clean sweep in the Lok Sabha elections in the state. Buoyed by this success, Hooda took a gamble by going for early Assembly elections. The results were, however, shocking for him and his colleagues. The Congress could well have missed the bus altogether but for the image of a “gentleman politician” that Hooda had acquired in his first term. It was this image of his, which made him the first choice of the seven Independent MLAs, who within hours of their election, declared their support for him.

This might have been good enough for the Raj Bhavan but a more fierce battle lay before Hooda in the corridors of Congress power in Delhi. His adversaries within the party joined hands to stop him from becoming Chief Minister again.

But then before every major success in his political career, Hooda had been perceived as an underdog. After losing two successive Assembly elections, he was pitted by the Congress against Devi Lal from the Rohtak Lok Sabha seat in 1991. At that time no one imagined that the young lawyer, who had already lost twice from his native Assembly constituency, would go on to trounce a leader, who at that time was considered to be a Titan of Haryana politics. He did so not once but thrice in a row.

After a few hiccups, Hooda was once again given the command of Haryana by Sonia Gandhi. In the past one year, Hooda had more reasons to worry about his adversaries within his own party than the Opposition. Then came the Mirchpur incident. The surprise visit of AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi to Mirchpur was perceived as a signal by Hooda’s rivals in the Congress to start a campaign against him. More than the Opposition, it was his own party men, who were asking for Hooda’s blood.

Ultimately, he triumphed. Sonia patted Hooda when the Congress put up an impressive performance in the local body elections. With so many Independents in government, a Chief Minister has to normally make compromises. Hooda, however, denies any such situation with him. He says all MLAs are with the Congress because they believe in its policies.





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