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Hoodanit! Sidelined by Party, Bhupinder Singh Hooda is Now Sole Congress Hope of Forming a Govt in Haryana

Even as he was upset with Rahul Gandhi for promoting Ashok Tanwar over him and his son Deepender, the senior Hooda continued to maintain good relations with both Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi while biding his time.

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18_pallavighosh

Updated:October 24, 2019, 3:00 PM IST
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Hoodanit! Sidelined by Party, Bhupinder Singh Hooda is Now Sole Congress Hope of Forming a Govt in Haryana
Bhupinder Singh Hooda at a rally in the run-up to the assembly election.

A few days after the election schedule was announced for Haryana , Bhupinder Singh Hooda was seen at a coffee shop in Delhi's India International Centre: the haunt of the who's who. He was constantly on the phone, chatting with a party colleague, but was all smiles when a couple of members wanted to click selfies with him. On spotting this reporter, he beamed and said, “They are clicking a picture with the future CM of Haryana.”

While the counting seems headed for a cliffhanger ending, this election has seen the return of the 'Hooda factor'. At 72 , the former two-time chief minister, who loves his food and hosting lunches, was aware that this was a do-or-die battle for him. Which is why when Rahul Gandhi was trying to promote Ashok Tanwar in the state, Hooda was biding his time. And at a rally in home turf Rohtak a few months ago, he gave an open dare to Sonia Gandhi and the Congress: "My workers will decide whether I should be with the Congress or do something else.” It was also at this time that Sonia took charge of the party as interim president. She was aware that Hooda’s voice could neither be silenced nor ignored. And like a true Jat, Hooda sought revenge and also a fight for his political legacy. He contested from Sonipat in this year's Lok Sabha polls but lost.

Congress had won the Rohtak parliamentary seat in Haryana in all national elections, except one. The dream run in the Lok Sabha constituency, which was represented by three generations of Hoodas, however, ended this year when his son, Deepender Singh Hooda, lost to the BJP’s Arvind Kumar Sharma. The Congress eventually lost all the Lok Sabha seats from the state for the second consecutive general elections.

While taking on the BJP, the Congress was faced with an internal leadership tussle. In September, just a month ahead of the assembly polls, the Congress ended the debate by naming former union minister Kumari Selja as the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee chief in place of Ashok Tanwar. After the state unit was split into two factions, the party also appointed Hooda as the Congress legislative party leader and chief of the election management committee.

This was half the battle won as Hooda had got his way. In private, he often worried about what would happen to his party in the state. Even as he was upset with Rahul Gandhi for promoting Tanwar over the Hoodas and even sidelining son Deepender, the senior Hooda continued to maintain very good relations with both Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi. In fact, with the return of Sonia at the helm, Hooda heaved a sigh of relief.

As the Congress stands at a crossroads and is hoping to cobble together a government in Haryana, Bhupinder Hooda is banking on his old relations in the state. An evergreen friend, Hooda has always kept in touch with long-time cohorts, no matter where they are. He maintains "one never knows when one may come in handy”, a belief which he would be banking on now. Hooda, who has a sweet tooth, has had to give up his favourite fare after being diagnosed with diabetes. But he still can't resist the sugar-free cakes and cookies baked by his wife Asha.

In Hooda's resurrection, the Congress gets a new lease of life as well.

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