Congress declares list for Haryana polls: Will fresh faces help Hooda become third time lucky?

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Fresh faces to help Hooda win Haryana?
After a great deal of infighting and differences over party's choice of candidates, the Congress on Wednesday released its list of candidates for the upcoming Haryana assembly polls. The Congress, which is facing huge anti-incumbency in the 90-member Haryana assembly, has given chance to a lot of fresh faces in the list, which is widely seen as a damage control attempt by the party.

The list also reveals that several senior party leaders' demands were not met. This might just widen the rift between the factions in the Congress at a time when the party leaders must put in all efforts for the party's better performance in the October 15 polls.

However, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and several of his cabinet colleagues figure in the Congress list of 90 candidates. Despite differences over candidates for certain seats between the Chief Minister and PCC Chief Ashok Tanwar, who had reportedly offered to resign in protest against his nominees not being considered, the list was released for the October 15 polls.

At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Anand Sharma feigned ignorance despite a volley of questions on a sulking Tanwar and his offer to resign. The PCC chief was also not immediately available for comments.

Who's contesting from where?

Congress's chief ministerial candidate Hooda is being fielded from his pocket borough of Garhi Sampla Kiloi in Rohtak district, Speaker Kuldeep Sharma will contest from Ganaur and Power Minister and AICC spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala from Kaithal.

Former Chief Minister Bansi Lal's daughter-in-law Kiran Chaudhary is the party candidate from Tosham while his son Ranbir Singh Mahendra, a former MLA and BCCI chief has been fielded from Badhra seat in Bhiwani district.

Congress ministers Savitri Jindal has been fielded from Hisar, Capt Ajay Singh Yadav from Rewari, Rao Narendra Singh from Narnaul and Geeta Bhukkal from Jhajjar-SC. The party has nominated senior leader and sitting MLA Bharat Bhushan Batra from Rohtak.

Big names denied ticket

The party has probably miffed a section in the party by either denying tickets to them or their family members (they had demanded for). The party has stuck to its one-ticket-per-family policy and denied tickets to the kin of Haryana ministers and MLAs who had lobbied for their kin.

Keeping this policy in mind, Shruti Chaudhary, former MP and daughter of Excise and Taxation Minister Kiran Chaudhary, and son of Irrigation Minister Capt Ajay Yadav, Chiranjeevi Yadav, were denied tickets.

Interestingly, Congress has given tickets to a few tainted MLAs

However, Finance Minister HS Chatha's son Mandeep Singh Chatha was given ticket from Pehowa. While Varun Chaudhary, son of former state Congress president Phool Chand Mullana and son of senior Congress leader Balbir Pal Shah, Virender Shah, were given tickets after the leaders decided to not contest the polls and demanded tickets for their kids.

Sharda Rathore, a sitting MLA from Ballabgarh assembly, was also denied ticket following the objection of state Congress chief Ashok Tanwar.

Why so many new faces?

The Hooda government in Haryana is staring at the humiliating defeat all thanks to the anti-incumbency and the popular pro-BJP and INLD sentiment blowing across the state. This is the reason why party has decided to field several new faces, who have a clean image in the minds of voters. This will help the party keep its traditional vote bank intact, which the party fears would have deflected if it had fielded same old candidates.

Also, presence of young leaders always helps a party connect with the youths whom any party cannot afford to ignore. The most important thing that the gen-next is keeping in mind before pressing the button is the track record of the leaders and since the Congress government is facing serious graft charges against it, the party seems to be hoping that young faces might just do the trick for the party.

By fielding fresh faces the incumbent party also wants to take advantage of the fact that Congress rival BJP has inducted several of its rebel leaders. Seems, the party thinks such a move will backfire at the BJP as it will send an impression in the voters' mind that the BJP has same faces that were once with the Congress and hence the voters will not poll in favour of such hoppers.

Trouble brewing for Congress

But, there is another trouble is brewing for the Congress at the eleventh hour. Reportedly, there is a disgruntled lot in the party which is not at all happy with the its choice of candidates. One such name is party's state president Ashok Tanwar, who is not happy with the party's decision of giving tickets to tainted leaders and he is likely to step down from his post.

The party has given tickets to all the MLAs allegedly caught on camera demanding money for change of land use. The CD row accused MLAs, including, Health Minister Rao Narender Singh (Narnaul), Chief Parliamentary Secretary Ram Krishan Fauji (Bawani Khera), Naresh Kumar (Uklana), Vinod Bhayana (Hansi) and Ram Niwas (Barwala), were issued tickets.

As per an Indian Express report, Tanwar had made it clear to the Congress Central Election Committee that he was against giving party tickets to tainted leaders as it would send a wrong signal to voters at a time when the party was struggling to come back after the worst-ever drubbing in the LS elections.

Uphill task for Hooda and Congress

Congress is expected to face an uphill task in the polls given the fact that it could secure just one seat Rohtak in the home district of the Chief Minister out of 10 seats in the Lok Sabha polls. INLD had won two seats while BJP had secured seven seats.

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