In Jind Prestige Battle, Surjewala Said ‘Yes Boss’ to Rahul as Other Congress Leaders Backed Out
Congress President Rahul Gandhi with party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala (PTI Photo)
In a surprise late night move, the Congress decided to make the Jind by-election in Haryana a high prestige battle by fielding the party’s media department head and one of Rahul Gandhi’s closest aides, Randeeep Surjewala, for the contest.
Surjewala is already an MLA from Kaithal in the state and the decision to pick him has many implications. But the first is that Gandhi has decided to send a message to cadre and opponents alike that Congress won’t shy away from a fight by putting out one of his strongest soldiers out to battle.
Sources told New18 that most of the party’s leaders in Haryana were reluctant to fight the by-election. But when Gandhi turned to Surjewala, the savvy media department head immediately said “yes boss”.
In Surjewala, the party found its safest and strongest candidate in the Jat-dominated region as being a Jat, he would allow the Congress to woo votes of the caste, but being a moderate face of the party, he would also not alienate the other sections.
Early on in his career, he had defeated INLD supremo Om Prakash Chautala in 2005 and is not averse to a slugfest when it comes to poll battle.
For Surjewala, the by-election will be a great chance to take an early lead and emerge as the party’s face in the state. Haryana is one state where Congress hopes to return to power but again faces a problem of plenty.
The Hoodas see Haryana as their turf and Bhupinder Hooda is a tall and strong leader from the state. Sources said he will resist any attempt by the party to change guard.
Ashok Tanwar is also keen to contest Lok Sabha polls while Kumar Shelja, a Dalit leader and known Hooda detractor, has also thrown her hat in the ring and wants to be seen as the face.
But what already works in Surjewala’s favour is his closeness to the Congress chief and that his position as the party’s communication chief has allowed him to occupy the centre stage.
Surjewala contesting the election from Jind is also being seen as a redux of Ahmed Patel’s Rajya Sabha election moment. His win was important to keep Sonia Gandhi’s prestige intact. Randeep’s win will be important for Rahul’s prestige.
The bypolls will take place on January 28 and was needed after demise of Hari Chand Middha from INLD. His son, Krishan Middha, is now likely to contest on a BJP ticket.