BJP’s rise pushes Haryana dynasts to political oblivion
New Delhi: The rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Haryana has not only cut the political clout of the “Lals” (Bansi Lal, Bhajan Lal, Chaudhary Devi Lal) and Hooda (Chaudhary Ranbir Singh Hooda) dynasties that dominated the state’s politics for over five decades since it was carved out of Punjab on 1 November 1966, but has pushed them to the verge of political extinction.
Haryana is all set to witness a political battle for as many as 90 Assembly seats on 21 October and the polls are being termed a do-or-die situation for the state’s four out of five prominent political dynasties. The political dynasties in Haryana include Bansi Lal, Bhajan Lal, Chaudhary Devi Lal, Chaudary Ranbir Singh Hooda and Birender Singh who is carrying forward the legacy of his grandfather Chhotu Ram, who was a dominant Jat leader. Except for Bhajan Lal, who hails from the Bishnoi community, all the political dynasties of Haryana are led by Jat leaders.
Sanjeet Yadav, a scholar of social science at Kurukshetra University, told The Sunday Guardian: “The problem with these dynasts is that they are not living up to the expectations of Haryana’s electorates. The changing expectations and the new caste arithmetic have led to the shrinking space for dynastic politics in the state which is considered to be a platform of dynasty politics.”
Yadav, who has worked extensively on the political families of Haryana, said: “The OBC reservation demand and the violent Jat protests across the state led to the emergence of a new caste-based social formation which has changed the traditional politics of the state and paved the way for the BJP.”
Yadav said that with a thin political presence in the state, the stakes are relatively higher for the families of Bansi Lal and Bhajan Lal, while for the families of Hooda and Devi Lal, the upcoming Assembly polls are going to be a battle for survival. Birender Singh, who comes from another political family, has already joined the BJP.
“If we see the political landscape of Haryana, Bhajan Lal was the first non-Jat leader who got political hold of the state by forming a Jat and non-Jat caste coalition. Termed as a political turncoat, Bhajan Lal’s dominance in Haryana’s Hisar Lok Sabha segment was unprecedented and that led him to grab power in the state,” Yadav said.
Bhajan Lal started his career as a Congress leader and in 1970, he was made Union Minister of State for Agriculture (1970-75). Bhajan Lal, who held the Haryana Chief Minister’s post for three terms, was denied the same post in 2005, which led to his joining his son Kuldeep Bishnoi’s political outfit Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC).
Currently, the legacy of Bhajan Lal is being run by his son Kuldip Bishnoi who parted ways with the BJP in 2014 before the Assembly polls and formed his own political outfit HJC. In 2016, taking a full circle, the HJC merged with the Congress.
“Kuldip Bishnoi’s breaking up with the BJP and merger with Congress is seen in many ways as his miscalculation of the political graph of the state. Bhajan Lal’s legacy was dumped in his own constituency when his grandson and son of Kuldip Bishnoi, Bhavya Bishnoi lost the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Hisar,” the expert mentioned above said.
In 2005, Congress handed over the command of its state unit to Bhupinder Singh Hooda who is the son of the patriarch of the Hooda clan, Chaudhary Ranbir Singh Hooda, a Congress stalwart who was elected to Parliament thrice (the first three Lok Sabhas between 1952 and 1967), even before Haryana was formed. The Rohatk constituency was nurtured by Chaudhary Ranbir Singh Hooda by way of opening schools, colleges and hospitals in the area. It was Rohtak which helped Bhupinder Singh Hooda consolidate the Jat voters in Haryana and later in turning him into a mass leader of Jats in the state, but the Hooda family failed to retain the same bastion in the last Lok Sabha polls. “Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who defeated former Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal thrice from the Rohtak constituency couldn’t help his son Deepender Hooda’s win in the Lok Sabha polls held this year. Also, two-term Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda himself lost from Sonipat in the same elections. Defeat of the Congress and the performance of Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s family in the Lok Sabha polls created a survival issue for the Hooda family,” Yadav said.
Bhupinder Hooda’s first stint as Chief Minister came in 2005 when the Congress, instead of appointing Bhajan Lal, chose to appoint him as Chief Minister of the state. He was re-elected as CM in 2009, but was defeated in the 2014 Assembly elections which witnessed an unprecedented Modi wave.
Recently, Bhupinder Singh Hooda was declared the sole leader of Congress in Haryana and he was appointed head of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP).
Similarly, the situation for the clans of Chaudhry Devi Lal, who took over as the country’s Deputy Prime Minister for the Janata Dal government from 1989-91, is also not good, and infighting has already led to the breaking up of his Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).
According to the political analyst quoted earlier, Devi Lal formed the Bharatiya Lok Dal in 1974. The party was renamed INLD in 1998 and has been a hub of anti-Congress politics since its inception.
Devi Lal’s legacy was taken forward by his son, Om Prakash Chautala, a five-term Haryana Chief Minister, and his oldest son, Ajay Chautala. Both Om Prakash Chautala and Ajay Chautala have been jailed after being convicted for alleged corruption in the hiring of junior teachers during Om Prakash Chautala’s government in 1999.
Family feud led to the split of the INLD in November last year and Ajay Chautala’s son Dushyant Chautala formed the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP).
In the last concluded Lok Sabha polls, both Abhay Chautala (INLD) and Dhusyant Chautala (JJP) were defeated miserably.
The family of another patriarch of Haryana politics, Bansi Lal, who took over as Chief Minister two years after the state came into existence, are now also struggling to remain relevant in his home turf, Bhiwani.
“The decline of Bansi Lal’s political empire started in 1996 when he parted ways with the Congress to form the Haryana Vikas Party (HVP) and took over as Chief Minister of Haryana in the same year. His government, supported by the BJP, was toppled after three years in 1999. After that, Devi Lal struggled to come back and despite merger with the Congress in 2004, till his death in 2006, he never got prominence again,” the scholar quoted above said.
Devi Lal’s political legacy was inherited by his granddaughter Shruti Choudhary, who failed to garner any positive results and lost her Lok Sabha polls in 2019 from Bhiwani.
However, the BJP is riding on the support of the non-Jat vote bank in Haryana and the party is far from any dynasty politics in the state, but it took in shelter to a prominent politician Birender Singh, who is the grandson of Chhotu Ram. Pre-Independence leader Chhotu Ram was the founder of National Unionist Party (NUP) and championed farmers’ rights. After winning in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP appointed Manohar Lal Khattar as the state’s Chief Minister. Khattar hails from a humble background and is mainly an OBC leader who helped the BJP in consolidating non-Jat voters in Haryana.
Chottu Ram’s grandson, Birender Singh, started his career with the Congress and represented the party from Hisar, but later joined the BJP. His son Brijendra Singh won the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Hisar.