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The Economic Times

Days after Rohtak war cry, Bhupinder Singh Hooda in huddle with AICC brass

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Haryana Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda

NEW DELHI: Two days after staging a symbolic rebellion at the Rohtak rally saying the Congress “has lost its way”, Haryana Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda put up a different symbolic act on Tuesday. He joined top Congress leaders, including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, at functions at Vir Bhumi and at the Parliament House to pay tributes to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on his 75th birth anniversary.

Hooda also spent time talking to senior Congress leaders such as AICC general secretary in-charge of Haryana, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Anand Sharma and Kumari Selja at Parliament House, sources said.

While Congress circles and the Hooda camp said they merely “exchanged pleasantries”, Tuesday’s footwork signalled that both sides have not yet snapped their lines of engagement. Many feel both Hooda and the Congress face no easy options without each other ahead of the Haryana elections in October-November.

While the Hooda camp’s main demand is the removal of PCC chief Ashok Tanwar, a Rahul Gandhi nominee, the AICC faces a trick question of whether to cling on to Tanwar and risk a vertical split in the Haryana Congress or, to accommodate Hooda without being seen giving into the pressure tactics. Given the short time before polls, some feel Hooda also faces the tough task of having to prepare for a solo electoral run if he breaks away finally.

Hooda openly backing the Centre’s decision on Article 370 may not be much of an issue, given that many other Congress leaders too have done the same. However, Hooda had planned the Rohtak rally when Rahul

Gandhi was still the Congress president. Some leaders had urged him to put off the rally once Sonia Gandhi became president but, by then, the ex-CM and his supporters had moved too far into the rally preparations.

“Now, it is up to the Gandhis,” said a senior Congress leader, indicating that only the topmost Congress leadership will have to decide whether to risk a major split in the Haryana Congress or opt for a pre-poll unity move.
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