" However, he said, he was a soldier of the party. Whatever directive is given to me, I will obey, Hooda added."
By Prashant Sood

New Delhi, Aug 24 - Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has said the Congress will form the government in the state with a comfortable majority and hopes of people from the Narendra Modi government were turning into disappointment.

Hooda also signalled that the Congress may change some candidates in the forthcoming assembly polls on the seats it won last time, saying he had conveyed to legislators that they should not take their party nominations for granted. He said he had held about 60 public rallies since the results of the Lok Sabha polls and the response of the people showed the Congress will return to power.

The kind of support and enthusiasm... the way we are getting response, Congress will form government with comfortable majority, Hooda told IANS in an interview at his residence here.

Elections to the 90-member Haryana assembly are expected to be held in the next two months. The term of the state assembly ends in October.

Hooda said he had analysed the reasons for the party's poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls and found that the BJP's victory was because of hopes built around its prime ministerial candidate. The Congress could win only one of the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana, the lone winner being Hooda's son Deepender from Rohtak.

The results (of Lok Sabha polls) were disappointing. We analysed the reason for that. All sections of people (were) totally satisfied with the performance of the government. Nobody voted for ideology of the party which won (the Bharatiya Janata Party). People voted for an individual, Hooda said, without naming Modi.

An atmosphere was created by different ways and means that a particular person is having a magic wand. Prices will come down, farmers would get remunerative prices, everybody will get a job. But what happened, Hooda asked.

He said while two-three months was not a too long a period for evaluating the performance of a government but the BJP-led government had not taken effective steps to curb price rise. Hooda said price rise was an issue which worked against the Congress-led UPA government.

He said prices of essential commodities have gone up under NDA rule and the government had hiked rail fares. The biggest sufferers are the farmers. I would be thankful to this government if they bring prices to the level they were when UPA was in power, he said.

The hope that was there (has turned into) disappointment. Look at the by-election results in Uttarakhand, he added.

The Congress won all the three by-elections in Uttrakhand last month.

Hooda, who came to office in 2005, is facing one of his toughest elections in the wake of the ascendancy of the BJP in Haryana which won seven of the eight Lok Sabha seats it contested. The Congress bagged 40 seats in 2009 and was followed by Indian National Lok Dal which won 31 seats.

Asked who was his main rival BJP or INLD, Hooda said: whoever comes second.

The Congress managed to form government in 2009 after roping in independent legislators and defectors from the Haryana Janhit Congress to the Congress fold.

Apart from Modi's campaign, the BJP in Haryana also gained from defections from the Congress. The process of defections has continued and former Congress general secretary Birender Singh joined the party earlier this month. Congress MP Avtar Singh Badhana has joined the INLD.

Asked about leaders leaving the party, Hooda said he did not want to discuss individuals.

People have left due to opportunism, he said, adding he was being told by some people that the party has got rid of those who were irritants.

Asked about reports that the party leadership was contemplating change of guard in the state in the wake of poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls, Hooda said speculation had been created by the media.

However, he said, he was a soldier of the party. Whatever directive is given to me, I will obey, Hooda added.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])

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