M A I N   N E W S

Hooda to stay, says Cong as warring groups make up
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 12
The warring Haryana Congress leaders dined together today at a top cultural hangout in the capital, hours after party vice-president Rahul Gandhi told them to sink their differences and work together ahead of the Assembly elections in the state.

The leadership change at the Chief Minister’s and the state party chief’s levels was ruled out by the Congress, which admitted to the seriousness of Haryana Congress factionalism, the reason why Rahul Gandhi had to step in today for damage control.

The meeting chaired by Rahul at his 12 Tuglaq Lane residence was attended by Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, his arch rivals and Rajya Sabha MPs Kumari Selja and Birender Singh, Congress general secretary and in charge of the state Shakeel Ahmed and Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar.

“We have been told not to go public with our grievances,” Selja told reporters after the meeting.

Later in the day, Hooda, Selja and Birender Singh attended a dinner hosted by Shakeel Ahmed at the India Islamic Cultural Centre. At the rare hangout, party leaders are learnt to have discussed their festering differences and possible solutions in the election year.

Just as the Congress leadership had tried dinner and lunch diplomacy to bring the squabbling Punjab Congress leaders together last year, it is now trying to build bridges between Hooda and his rivals, who have been demanding proportionate development and jobs in all districts of the state.

The urgent meeting called by Rahul and then the dinner hosted by Shakeel Ahmed are indicators of a growing realisation within the Congress that Hooda rivals needed to be placated at the earliest even though the leadership change was no solution ahead of the Assembly elections.

The Congress’ central leadership is reported to be conscious of Birender Singh keeping all his options open. Singh was said to have met BJP chief Rajnath Singh recently, though he denied it.

Congress leaders say they are posted of Birender’s flirtations outside the party and would like to placate him. “If he leaves, we would suffer damages,” a Congress leader said.

With Rahul playing the mediator today, the Congress hopes to bring Hooda and anti-Hooda camps together even as most top leaders have cited the futility of changing either the CM or the state chief right now.

The Congress vice-president asked the warring leaders not to go public with their problems and to work together on solutions. Hooda was asked to take everyone along and strengthen the party.

It is learnt that Birender Singh argued for leadership change in Rahul’s meeting though indirectly.

Asked what the party’s strategy would be to bring the squabbling leaders together ahead of polls, a senior leader said: “The CM and state chief will have to ensure that everyone’s views are well represented in whatever policy decisions are taken and also in the reconstitution of the state, district and block units which were recently dissolved.”

On his part, Birender Singh has been giving feelers to the Congress that “he could not be taken for granted”. He is still upset over being removed as the AICC general secretary (Uttarakhand and Himachal). Later, Singh missed the Cabinet berth in the previous UPA government.

Rahul plays a mediator

  • Rahul Gandhi steps in for damage control, chairs meeting of warring factions
  • Tells Haryana leaders not to go public with their problems
  • Hooda, Selja, Birender attend dinner hosted by party general secretary Shakeel Ahmed





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