RS Elections: How Ajay Maken Became Collateral Damage in Kuldeep Bishnoi’s Payback to Gandhis

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The late three-time chief minister Bhajan Lal was known as the ‘Chanakya’ of Haryana politics. His son, Kuldeep Bishnoi, seems to have finally exhibited his inheritance of political strategy by being instrumental in the defeat of Congress candidate Ajay Maken in the Rajya Sabha elections on Friday.

The Congress MLA from Adampur did not vote for Maken in the elections. This was his chosen moment of getting back at the Congress high command, which had overlooked him for the post of Haryana Congress state president on April 27 this year. The Congress had chosen a Dalit leader in Udai Bhan, seen to be close to former Haryana CM and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Sulking since and failing to meet Rahul Gandhi, Bishnoi has chosen his time of payback.

The anger was simmering as Bishnoi harboured hopes of being made the state party president, met Rahul Gandhi earlier and told his close confidants about his hopes being high. However, in the end, the Hoodas managed to get their way and the die was cast. Bishnoi and his father had a long tussle with the Hoodas, with both quitting the party in 2007 and forming the Haryana Janhit Congress after Bishnoi had severely criticised the policies of then CM Bhupinder Hooda. In 2011, Bishnoi even stitched up an alliance with the BJP.

But it was Rahul Gandhi who brought back Bishnoi into the Congress fold in 2016, with Bishnoi merging his party with the Congress. The two had a good equation since, before the recent fall-out.

“Like you, I am also angry. But till I meet Rahul Gandhi, we do not have to take any step. Please maintain calm,” Bishnoi had tweeted to his supporters on April 27 after he was overlooked for the post. His cryptic posts since, including praise for Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar, were signaling his impending rebellion. “He was simmering at his humiliation,” a leader close to him conceded.

Political insiders in Haryana also speak of Bishnoi’s closeness to Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala, who in fact has said as his “personal opinion” that Bishnoi was fit to be the state PCC chief.

Rahul Gandhi has chosen to bank on Bhupinder Singh Hooda and his son Deepender Hooda in the run-up to the next Haryana elections after the Hoodas maintained they were given charge too late in the last elections and Congress lost narrowly to the BJP as a result.

Will the Congress gambit pay off or will the BJP get the likes of Kuldeep Bishnoi on board now to strengthen its camp? Time will tell that, but for now, Ajay Maken has paid the price for the unending tussle in the Congress camp in Haryana. Bhajan Lal’s son has hit perhaps where it will hurt the most.

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