Mon. Jun 27th, 2022
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NEW DELHI: Congress removed senior Haryana MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi from all party posts, including the Congress Working Committee — a prelude to his departure or expulsion — after he cross-voted for the BJP-backed independent candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections, resulting in the defeat of party candidate Ajay Maken in a late-night cliffhanger.
Always seen as tough in view of the history of the state as well as the party’s close tally, Haryana was the sole disappointment in otherwise Congress’ effective execution of Rajya Sabha strategy where it faced the challenge of getting “outsiders” elected from different states.
While Bishnoi voted against the party, another vote was invalidated for diverging from the method of marking the ballot. The invalid vote was attributed to senior member Kiran Choudhary, though she slammed the reports as baseless and threatened legal action. A veteran of many RS polls faltering on marking the vote correctly has raised questions.
The crucial bit is that Bish-noi and Choudhary both belong to the anti-Hooda camp in the highly factionalised state unit, where the bitterness has increased since Bhupinder Hooda recently prevailed upon the leadership to appoint a loyalist Udai Bhan as the state president. While Bishnoi is seen as cosying up to BJP — he expressed relish at the result by tweeting about “knowing how to defang a snake” — Choudhary’s daughter is a working president in the state Congress. Also, she and Maken were together in Delhi politics and assembly, though in rival camps, leading to speculations if there was an old beef between them. While the axe fell on Bishnoi, there was no clarity from Congress if it was contemplating any action against Choudhary, who in her tweets said “I am a loyal Congressperson committed to my party”.
Confusion reigns, however, on what led to Bishnoi’s final act. It was said that he had repeatedly sought time from Rahul Gandhi to clear some issues, but the latter did not oblige. It was also said that Hooda instigated Bishnoi in the run-up to the voting. Also, Choudhary’s denial that her vote was invalid raised questions if it was some MLA close to Hooda. Congress steered clear of these questions in the wake of the fiasco.
However, even if the factional faultlines felled Maken, Hooda is seen to have emerged stronger as his loyalists (28/31 MLAs) voted with the party which received 30 votes including the invalid one. Many believe it will only strengthen the hands of the former CM can now argue that his inhouse rivals worked against Congress’s interests. The point was reiterated by Maken who, after defeat, praised Hooda senior and son Deepender for their effort.

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