Chandigarh, Sep 10: It may not be that gangsters are contesting next month’s assembly elections in Haryana but the way parties and senior leaders are addressing each other, it looks like a real ‘gang-war’ is going on in the state. The barbs by leaders range from “Gulabi Gang” to “Tihar Gang”.

The main opposition party, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), fired the first salvo with its slogan ‘Golibaaz Gulabi Gang Sarkar’ while addressing the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in the state. The obvious reference is to the pink (Gulabi) colour that the Congress – under Hooda – is using for its flags, headgear and scarves.

The INLD is chiding the Hooda government over its claim of “No.1 Haryana”, alleging that Haryana was No.1 only in corruption and land scams that the Hooda government got associated with in the past nearly one decade of rule in the state. Not the one to take the barb kindly, Chief Minister Hooda has taken on the INLD and some other parties head-on.

Addressing rallies and the media, Hooda often refers to the “Tihar Gang”. The obvious reference is to senior INLD leaders Om Prakash Chautala and his elder son Ajay Chautala. Both INLD leaders are lodged in Delhi’s Tihar jail since January last year after a CBI court in Delhi convicted them in a teachers’ recruitment scam and sentenced them to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Hooda does not stop there alone. He points out that some members of the ‘Tihar Gang’ are in jail while others are out on bail. The second reference is clearly to Gopal Kanda, a former minister in the Hooda government who is currently on bail in the air-hostess rape and abetment to suicide case in Delhi.

“Some members of the (Tihar) gang are in jail while others are out on bail. This gang is out to grab power in Haryana. You need to beware of them,” Hooda tells people at his rallies. Reacting to the INLD’s ‘Gulabi Gang’ campaign, Hooda said: “Gulabi (Pink) is the colour of prosperity. It reflects the overall development and progress of Haryana. People of Haryana have still not forgotten the reign of terror in the state earlier (during INLD rule), including extortion racket operated from jails and the fear instilled among traders.”

Kanda has floated a new political party – the Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP) – and is trying to establish it in the state for next month’s assembly polls. Before it went out of power in Haryana in 2004, the INLD had its infamous ‘Green Brigade’, associated with the green official colour of the party. Members of the brigade allegedly used to threaten people, especially traders.

Hooda, who became chief minister for the first time in March 2005, was able to form the government again in November 2009 after getting support from independent legislators and defectors from the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC). This time, Hooda faces an uphill task as he takes a shot at a third term with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won seven out of 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state recently, and the INLD breathing down the Congress neck.