With AAP rising, Haryana Congress may see changes (Haryana Newsletter)

Chandigarh, Dec 25: After its near triumph in Delhi, the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP has indicated its next target will be assembly elections next year in neighbouring Haryana. This is causing vibrations in the ruling Congress.

The Congress, which has governed Haryana since March 2005, is likely to opt for the younger Sirsa Lok Sabha seat MP Ashok Tanwar, a former national Youth Congress president, as the new state Congress chief.

The Congress, which clung to power in November 2009 after roping in independent legislators and by wooing legislators from the (then) newly born Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), faces a stiff challenge for next year’s Lok Sabha and assembly elections (likely in October) from the main opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the HJC-BJP combine.

If the Aam Aadmi Party jumps into the fray, the Congress is likely to face a tougher challenge.

AAP is interested in Haryana for two reasons.

One, Haryana adjoins Delhi and AAP’s showing in the Delhi polls is surely going to give the party some footing in Haryana.

The AAP’s support base and volunteers in the run up to the Delhi polls came largely from Haryana.

Secondly, Kejriwal has family links with Haryana’s Bhiwani district where his relatives are settled.

With the sound backing of Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Phool Chand Mullana has been the state Congress president since July 2007. Despite losing assembly elections in 2009 from his Mullana seat, Mullana has retained the post.

Mullana offered to resign following his defeat but the move to replace him, party insiders say, was scuttled by Hooda.

After the humiliation of the Congress in the October 2011 Hisar Lok Sabha seat by-election where its official candidate not only finished third but also lost his security deposit, Mullana sent his resignation again to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. But Hooda still managed to protect his confidant.

In the Hisar by-poll, the AAP leaders had, for the first time, campaigned actively against the Congress.

The chief minister’s benevolence towards Mullana is evident. He has given cabinet status to Mullana after making him deputy chairman of the high-powered committee on the 20-point programme implementation.

With the Congress and Hooda eyeing a third term in office next year, a change in the state unit leadership is a foregone conclusion, party leaders say. Unless, of course, Hooda again comes to Mullana’s rescue.

IANS