Regional politics on display at Congress’ Kisan rally
Regional politics was on full display during the “kisan samman rally” of the Congress here today with factionalism in the party’s Haryana and Punjab units surfacing now and then.
On one hand, supporters of former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, co-chairman of the organising committee, again clashed with state Congress chief Ashok Tanwar’s men and, on the other, fissures in the party’s Punjab unit came to the fore when state party president Partap Singh Bajwa said disunity was holding the Congress back.
Bajwa’s bête noire, former Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, was conspicuous by his absence. Capt Amarinder skipped the event, citing the launch of his book on the 1965 war in the capital later in the day. He had been seen as Bajwa’s replacement as the Punjab Congress chief.
That apart, most eyeballs were drawn by the Haryana crowds with Hooda’s supporters donning pink turbans outnumbering visitors from all other states. Hooda’s men overshadowed Tanwar’s supporters who wore red turbans.
Like in the last rally in April, Hooda’s supporters again hooted down Tanwar when he came to speak. All visiting state Congress presidents (from Punjab, Uttarakhand, Himachal and Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh) spoke from the dais today before Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi took over. On the stage with the Gandhis was Hooda, whose political strength was visible in the form of pink headgear across the venue.
Earlier, before political speeches began, Hooda and Tanwar’s men came to blows. It took a nudge from Congress general secretary Haryana Shakeel Ahmed, who was conducting the show, to placate the warring factions. The battle of turbans (pink versus red) was, however, fought moments after Ahmed appealed for calm, with Tanwar surprising his rivals by asking his supporters to wear red headgear. It was later learnt that even the Punjab crowd (nearly 20,000) were wearing red turbans, giving a false impression of the strength of the Tanwar camp.
Hooda, for his part, was in control today as the rally co-chairman. He even presented a vote of thanks after Sonia, Rahul and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of following “anti-farmer” policies.
Though visitors began to walk out of the venue after the Gandhis spoke, they stopped when Hooda came to the stage and asked farmers to wait.
The Hooda-Tanwar clash was expected after the majority of the Haryana Congress MLAs recently refused to attend the first meeting of the newly formed 259 member state committee on grounds that it comprised people who worked against party interests in elections.
Other regional leaders at the rally were the Chief Ministers of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand Virbhadra Singh and Harish Rawat, respectively; former ministers Ashwani Kumar and Santosh Choudhry, former Punjab Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Haryana CLP leader Kiran Choudhry.
Indian Youth Congress president Amrinder Brar demanded the resumption of stamps in the name of former Prime Ministers Indira and Rajiv Gandhi.