Kumari Selja appointed Haryana Congress chief ahead of elections
New Delhi, Aug 04: In a bid to end factionalism in the party ahead of assembly polls in Haryana, the Congress on Wednesday named Kumari Selja chief of its state unit and appointed former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda chairperson of the election management committee.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi also appointed Hooda the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader, and by virtue of that leader of opposition in the state assembly, Congress general secretary in-charge of Haryana Ghulam Nabi Azad announced.
He was addressing a press conference here with general secretary organisation K C Venugopal by his side.
Selja, 56, is a former Union minister and known for being close to Sonia Gandhi. While she takes Ashok Tanwar's place as Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Hooda will replace CLP leader Kiran Choudhary.
Tanwar, who finds himself out of favour, is known to be close to Rahul Gandhi. He had been state unit chief since 2014.
The Hooda faction had been demanding a change in the Haryana Congress leadership ahead of the assembly polls in October this year.
His supporters wanted 71-year-old Hooda to be installed as the new Congress chief in Haryana. However, the party leadership was not inclined to do so and wanted to replace Tanwar, a Dalit, with a Dalit. Therefore, according to sources, the decision to finalise Rajya Sabha MP Selja.
The party's decision to give Hooda the responsibility of leading the election charge follows his August 18 'Maha Parivartan Rally' in Rohtak when he declared that the Congress had "lost direction".
Asked about Hooda's remarks and the factionalism plaguing the Haryana unit of the party, Azad said all that was in the past and a new beginning had been made with the appointments.
Pressed further, Azad said Hooda had been given the responsibility now. If the party had lost direction, he can bring it on the right path, he said.
On the delay in appointments, Azad said, "Better late than never."
"This (post of election management committee chief) is very important as in the next few days Haryana elections are likely to be announced," Azad said.
Azad also listed the various development works carried out in Haryana under Hooda's tenure from 2005-2014. A lot of work was done for Dalits and farmers, he said.
In terms of per capita income and investment, Haryana was number 1 under Hooda's tenure, Azad said, adding that the state had became a hub of health, education and sports.
"Considering all this, he (Hooda) has been given the job during elections. All senior leaders of the states will fight the BJP together," he asserted.
Azad hit out at the Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana, alleging that the state lagged behind on all counts, including law and order.
"There have been various atrocities against Dalits in Haryana. I have full confidence that the entire team will fight together to defeat the BJP," he said.
During his rally in Rohtak, Hooda had given a warning to the Congress party for a leadership change, while supporting the Modi government's move to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution.
It was also being speculated that Hooda could quit the party.
Hooda recently met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and held detailed discussions with her.
The Congress leadership has been desperately looking to end the factionalism in the party in poll-bound Haryana, where it is seeking to wrest back power from the BJP.
In the 2014 assembly polls, the BJP won 47 seats and went on to form its government. The Congress could only win 15 seats in the 90-member Assembly. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) had 19 legislators. Since then, the INLD has split into two factions.