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Last Updated : Oct 15, 2019 06:36 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Haryana Assembly Election: Will Dalit leader Kumari Selja help sail Congress' boat to respectable tally?

Known for her proximity to the Gandhi family, Selja was given a Rajya Sabha nomination ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls

Image: Twitter/@kumari_selja
Image: Twitter/@kumari_selja

Having grown up around politics and being a Dalit leader, Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Kumari Selja has been given the charge to bind the party together, rejuvenate the cadre and build a comprehensive campaign to take on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming state assembly elections.

On September 4, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi announced the appointment of the Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament (MP). This came amid tremendous pressure from PCC members, including former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s camp, to replace Ashok Tanwar.

Political journey

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Born to Congress leader Chaudhry Dalbir Singh in 1962, Kumari Selja belongs to the Dalit community. At the age of 28, she entered the political fray by becoming the president of Mahila Congress in 1990.

She was elected to the 10th Lok Sabha in 1991 from Sirsa in Haryana. She was Union Minister of State for Education and Culture in the Narasimha Rao-led Congress government. In 1996, while Congress faced a drubbing in Lok Sabha polls, Shelja was re-elected.

In 2004 Lok Sabha polls, she was elected from the Ambala constituency. She then served as the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation in the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government.

Also read | Haryana Assembly Election 2019: Here's all you need to know

In 2009, she was re-elected from Ambala, making this her second consecutive victory from the seat and was given a Cabinet portfolio, including Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Culture. She was also given the Ministry of Tourism.

Known for her proximity to the Gandhi family, Selja was given a Rajya Sabha nomination ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Selja tried her luck in the Lok Sabha elections 2019 from Ambala but lost to BJP’s Rattan Lal Kataria.

Caste equation

The Dalit leader had created a stir in the Rajya Sabha when she claimed that she was asked about her caste when she had visited a temple in Dwarka town of Gujarat as a Union minister during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule.

Her statement received responses from then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Power Minister Piyush Goyal, which angered the Congress party. Alleging that the government's statements disputing Selja's remarks were "misleading", the party forced many adjournments of the House.

Also read | Haryana Assembly Election 2019: Key factors that may impact polls

Appointment as PCC President

Within four months of defeat in the general elections, Selja was given the leadership of Haryana Congress unit. Holding the position ahead of the state elections, the senior leader is expected to reinstate the party’s lost image and ensure a respectable tally in the forthcoming election.

She is handling rebellion within the party. Rejecting her predecessor Ashok Tanwar's allegations, who resigned  from all election committees of the Congress, of irregularities in ticket distribution for Haryana Assembly polls, she said, "Congress is not an individual-based party, it is a party that functions like a family based on its ideology."

Also, she expelled 16 people from the party for contesting against its official nominees in the October 21 assembly polls.

Furthermore, she is extensively campaigning against the ruling BJP and trying to make space for Congress among the masses.

However, what comes of her efforts will be known only on October 24, when the results of the assembly elections are announced.
First Published on Oct 15, 2019 06:36 pm
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