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Sonia's image suffers a blow

By Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi
March 04, 2005 22:56 IST
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Coming close on the heels of the embarrassing Jharkhand tangle, Bhajan Lal's boycott of the Congress Legislative Party meeting called by Sonia come as a blow to the Congress president's larger than life image.

Haryana Congress heavyweight and chief contender to the post of chief minister, Bhajan Lal, hammered in his protest against the high command by quitting the post of Haryana unit chief on Friday soon after his arch rival B S Hooda was chosen CLP leader.

The veteran leader faxed his resignation to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Many in the Congress party feel that the move could be the first sign of revolt against the authority of Sonia.

Bhajan Lal absented himself from the CLP meet in New Delhi on Friday to select the chief minister of the state. He also did not allow 23 legislators -- said to be his supporters -- to attend the party meeting.

'Doesn't Sonia have shame' | Bhupendra Hooda will be Haryana CM

A senior Congress leader told "He (Lal) did not attend the meeting despite the Congress president's personal directive."

Bhajan Lal apparently knew that Bhupender Singh Hooda had an edge in the race to the CM's post.

Giant killer Hooda's 32-yr journey to CM

During the CLP meeting, Bhajan's son was proposed to be the deputy chief minister. That did not impress him. He was then asked to become the governor of Orissa. He snubbed that offer.

While he stayed away from the meeting, a Congress leader contacted him for the negotiations. Bhajan Lal did not respond to that too.

The episode is said to be an embarrassment for Sonia Gandhi. 

A defiance of this nature by a senior leader is the first after the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance coalition formed the government at the Centre last year.

Meanwhile, it will not be an easy ride for Hooda, who has been elected to head the legislature party.

He will have to face opposition not only from Bhajan Lal but also other stalwarts like Randeep Singh Surjewala, Virender Singh and Bansi Lal.

A Congress leader said it was a clear case of mismanagement by the party high command.


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Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi