G23 leaders are reformists not rebels, says Congress veteran Hooda (IANS Interview)

They (G23) are reformists and not rebels. Every leader is entitled to express his opinion to strengthen the Congress. The second tenure of the BJP in Haryana is more disastrous. All the issues facing the Congress in Haryana will be resolved by the party high command well ahead of the assembly elections in 2024. These were the views of two-time Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda, 75.

In an exclusive interview at his official residence here on Friday, Hooda candidly told IANS that there is no individual grievance or self-interest of any of the senior leaders of the Congress suggesting structural changes in the party.

Responding to an IANS query that it is high time for the party leadership to redress the grievances of the rebel leaders (G23), he said, “They are reformists not rebels.”

“Every leader is entitled to express his opinion to strengthen the Congress party in a democratic way,” Hooda was categorically clear in saying.

Without mincing words, he said the so called G23, largely a media coinage, is giving suggestions to the party leadership as they want to make the party stronger.

“It’s in the interest of democracy and the country,” he added.

Describing the second tenure of the BJP government in Haryana as more disastrous than its first term, he said, “Now, they are not capable even to manage their junior partner (Jannayak Janta Party — JJP) in the government.”

“I can say the government has failed on all fronts. It has not fulfilled its poll manifesto promises. Every section of society is dissenting. Haryana was number one in per capita income and per capita investment during the Congress regime,” the two-time Chief Minister said.

“The BJP-JJP government has made the state number one in unemployment, inflation, corruption, crime, and fiscal mismanagement.”

According to Hooda, the state has the highest unemployment rate of 28.7 per cent in the country.

The Leader of Opposition said every section of society, including employees, is on the roads and the government is not concerned about them.

He said to address the grievances of the common man the party has launched ‘Vipaksh Aapke Samaksh’ programme that is getting an overwhelming response and helping the party understand their problems and issues.

Over two dozen Congress legislators, several former ministers, former MLAs, former MPs and senior leaders are attending the programme launched from Karnal, the home district of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. The next one in row is in Faridabad this month.

On the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announcing to contest the upcoming panchayat and municipal elections in the state, a confident Hooda, who has been winning his Garhi Sampla-Kiloi seat with a comfortable margin ever since he became the Chief Minister in 2005, told IANS, “Every eligible individual or party is free to contest election in a democracy. The Congress has its own time-tested ideology and mass base in the state.”

He said every state has its political situation. “In Punjab AAP got some seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. In the previous assembly, it was the main Opposition party. They performed well in the assembly polls of Punjab but failed to mark its presence in the simultaneous elections in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It has no presence at the grassroots in Haryana.”

He refuted rumours that the party is still divided into two camps — one led by him and the other by former Union minister and state party President Kumari Selja,

Congress veteran Hooda was categorically clear in saying that there is no infighting in the party.

“Yes, revamping and revitalising of the organisation is needed for which the process of organisational elections is on.”

On his recent meeting with Rahul Gandhi about any plan to adopt collective leadership well ahead of the assembly polls, Hooda replied: “I am sure that all issues facing the party will be resolved well before the assembly polls.”

Party leaders told IANS that Hooda has categorically told the Gandhis that he would not lead the party in the assembly elections slated at the end of 2024 unless he is given a free hand in ticket distribution.

Responding to a question: How do you see the AAP-led Punjab government’s resolution on Chandigarh, Hooda replied candidly: “The resolution of the Punjab assembly signifies nothing. This is a ritualistic tactic of every government in Punjab to divert the attention of their people from the real challenges before them.”

In the November 2019 assembly polls, the BJP won 40 seats and was six short of a majority in the 90-member Haryana Assembly.

Besides the JJP, seven independent MLAs have also extended support to the BJP, helping it reach a tally of 57 seats.

The Congress won 31 seats, improving its tally from 19 in 2014.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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