“I have never faced such personal animus from within the party as I am now”
Union minister for social justice and empowerment Kumari Selja on Monday accused the Congress’s Haryana unit of not just working against her interests, but also of seeking to intimidate her. “I have been in politics for 25 years; I first became a Central minister in 1992,” Ms. Selja said, “but I have never faced such personal animus from within the party as I am now.”
The minister’s comment came a day after an unknown miscreant flung a sharp rock through the window of a new train — the Kalka-Sainagar Shirdi superfast express — she was inaugurating as it runs through her parliamentary constituency, Ambala, injuring her on her upper arm and shoulder. If it had been a few inches higher, says a shaken Ms. Selja, “it could have been much worse.”
The minister, after flagging off the train at Kalka on Sunday, rode on it in a general compartment all the way up to Chandigarh, waving through a barred window at those on the platforms. Those travelling with the minister included several railway officials. As dusk fell, it was suggested to her that she move to another seat by an unbarred window. She initially demurred as it was dark by then, but when pressed, she changed her seat: somewhere between Kalka and Chandimandir at Manakpur village, someone shied a largish stone through the window. It hit her hard: shocked, she jumped up. An FIR was lodged later at night, and enquiries are on.
This incident assumes significance as it comes against the backdrop of heightened dissidence in the Haryana State unit of the Congress, with chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and his backers ranged on one side and senior Central leaders from the Ctate like Ms. Selja and Congress Working Committee (CWC) member Birender Singh, on the other. Rao Inderjit Singh, it may be recalled, recently quit the Congress, citing his unhappiness with Mr. Hooda, and demanding an enquiry into the land deals in Haryana by Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, Robert Vadra.
Indeed, Mr. Hooda has often hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons — in reports relating to the Vadra land deals, and not taking a sufficiently strong stand against honour killings.
In June this year, Congress sources recalled, Mr. Birender Singh, then general secretary — and a grandson of the legendary Jat leader, Sir Chotu Ram — was told he would be inducted into the Union cabinet. But hours before the swearing-in ceremony, he was informed there had been a change of plan: as compensation, as there had just been a party reshuffle in which he had given up his general secretaryship as he was to be made a Central minister, he was made a CWC member. If the party leadership had intended to elevate Birender Singh to pacify the anti-Hooda camp, his non-induction in the Union cabinet was seen as a victory for the Hooda faction.
More recently, during the recent Parliament session, as part of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s exercise of having regular meetings with members of the State units, there was one of the Haryana unit. At that meeting, there were some complaints about the chief minister: Mr. Gandhi, according to those who were present, said he did not wish to hear any complaints about the State government.
Ms. Selja, 51, a four time MP from Haryana, who has been a Central minister from 1992 to 1996, and again from 2004 onwards, is the senior-most leader from the State in the Central government and is not accusing Mr. Hooda directly. But given the minister’s usual low key style, the fact that she has gone public about the attack on her and talked about the “personal animus” against her from within her own party, would suggest that there is trouble brewing in the Congress’s Haryana unit.