Bhupinder Singh Hooda's half-revolt against Congress over Article 370 in Kashmir reveals extreme restlessness of cadre
Hooda's comments and the growing dissent within the Congress is also symptomatic of the restlessness that has gripped the party since its defeat in the second successive Lok Sabha elections in May this year, and the consequent abdication of Rahul Gandhi from the post of party president.
With senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda coming out in support of abrogation of Article 370 at a public rally in Rohtak on Sunday, rumbling within the Congress has gathered steam. Ever since the Article 370 was abrogated by the Narendra Modi-led central government on 5 August, top Congress leaders have gradually come out in support of the move, individually though. Hooda, former Haryana chief minister is the latest in the list of Congress leaders who have supported the move; his son and former Congress MP from Rohtak, Deepender Hooda, too, had supported the abrogation soon after the move had been finalised by the Parliament.
The statements by the Hoodas do not come as a surprise considering that the Assembly elections in Haryana are upcoming in November 2019 — with the mood of the nation strongly in favour of a firm resolution to the festering Kashmir crisis, there is a lot at risk for the political stakeholders in their respective constituencies.
The mandate given to the Modi government in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections followed by widespread support to its approach in dealing with the issue of Kashmir and Pakistan-sponsored terror attacks — are clear indicators of which way the wind is blowing. As is well-known, it was not Hindutva but the strong approach towards tackling Pakistan-sponsored terrorism that had won the day for the BJP in the general elections which concluded in May 2019.
Many political rivals of the BJP, as a consequence, played safe in their reaction to the abrogation of Article 370, sensing the mood of the nation, and not willing to tamper with it at the risk of losing valuable political equity. After all, the 2019 Lok Sabha election witnessed the decimation of the collective Opposition into minuscule numbers; the biggest of them, the Congress, finished with 52 seats in the 545-seat Lok Sabha, as opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party's 303.
Political opponents, including the BSP, TDP, declared their support for the government's move to make paradigm changes in the status of Jammu and Kashmir with the abrogation of Articles 370 and Article 35A. In such a scenario — when the mood of the electorate is crystal clear on the Kashmir issue and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism — it is not a surprise that the Congress leaders are risking displeasure of their top party bosses by going against the party line of opposing Centre's decision on Article 370.
The growing dissent within the Congress is also symptomatic of the restlessness that has gripped the party since its defeat in the second successive Lok Sabha elections in May this year, and the consequent abdication of Rahul Gandhi from the post of party president. For 77 days, there was no clarity on the party president as Rahul steadfastly stuck to his decision to not lead the party. The party failed to find his replacement, and then, eventually on 10 August Sonia Gandhi was re-appointed as interim president.
"The day Art 370 was abrogated, Congress' top leadership should have given a clear outline to party leaders on what should have been the party's stand and what leaders should speak on this issue. The party should have said that it respects public sentiment and supports the issue related to security of the nation. Absence of a clear-cut guideline led party leaders to give statements of their own, which reflected as if they were against party's stand on Art 370 and Jammu & Kashmir," a senior Congress leader told Firstpost on condition of anonymity. Similar view was expressed by several Congress leaders and workers.
Back to Haryana. Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections this year, the Congress faced a humiliating defeat in Jind bypoll, when senior Congress leader and spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala lost by a massive margin. While the BJP won the seat, Congress was relegated to the third position.
On 17 August, BJP president Amit Shah at a rally in Jind accused the Congress of not repealing Article 370 over the past 70 years.
The past performance of Congress, which has been out of power in Haryana from 2014, compelled Hooda to make a scathing attack on his party colleagues and on the Congress, so that he doesn't appear against people's sentiment on Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP had ousted the two-time chief minister Hooda by reducing the Congress to just 15 seats in the 90-member Assembly in 2014.
While addressing 'Maha Parivartan Rally' in Rohtak, Hooda said, "When the government does something right, I always support it. Many of my colleagues opposed the Centre's decision to abrogate Article 370. They have lost their way. It is not the same Congress as it used to be."
Hooda's statement is proof of desperation on part of the veteran Congress leader who may not want a repeat of the 2014 Assembly election result this November.
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