If the parallel functions to mark the 69 birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were any indicator, Congress high command has failed to quell the factional feud in Haryana unit. While the Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, organised a rally at Panipat, where he launched the National Food Security scheme, his detractor and Rajya Sabha member Chaudhary Birender Singh went ahead with his “Sadhbhawna Rally” at Jind. Both camps claimed success of their respective programmes.
AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh and in-charge of party affairs in the State Shakeel Ahmed represented the party chief, Sonia Gandhi, at the Sadhbhawana Rally, which was also addressed by Mr Hooda's staunch critic, Ms Shelja, who is the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment. Two MPs, Shruti Chaudhary and Ishwar Singh, as well as two MLAs, Rajpal Bhukhri and Naresh Sailwal, were also present.
The dissident leaders from the State unit of the party, especially Birender Singh, Ms Shelja and Ishwar Singh came out heavily against the functioning of the Hooda administration and for its discriminatory approach and regional bias in the development of the State. The speakers were critical that the party should not be allowed to become a pocket borough of an individual.
In their address, both Digvijay Singh and Mr Ahmed assured that they would not only convey the mood and sentiment at the rally to the party high command but will also work out a rapprochement between the top leaders. They emphasised the need for unity in the rank and file of the Congress, which must gear up to meet the challenge from the Indian National Lok Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
On the other hand, Mr Hooda sought to downplay the Jind rally, by explaining that every function by Congress leaders would ultimately benefit the party. However, his decision to depute ministers and senior leaders to preside over the Food Security functions at district headquarters was seen as an attempt to ensure minimum dignitaries at the Sadhbhawna rally. He read out figures about fund allocation to counter allegations of regional bias of his government.
Emphasising the importance of the implementation of the scheme, the Chief Minister said those who opposed it were not interested in the welfare of the poor. He said the scheme would benefit more than 1.26 crore people in the State, where the number of rural beneficiaries had increased from 38 lakh to 90.28 lakh and from 15.81 lakh to 36.21 lakh in the urban areas.