Whenever I used to hear about Haryana, a picture of a pehlwan and an akhada would hit my mind. But when I started studying politics, the image got transformed into a collage of the three Lals of Haryana, and Bhupinder Singh Hooda was a later addition to it. It is so because for the past 46 years (from 1952 to 2014), the state has been ruled by either these three or their dynasty ascenders. (Keeping aside the very short tenure of Hukam Singh and Banarsi Das Gupta). But in 2014, the history got a twist with the thumping majority of BJP in the state under the Modi wave, and RSS Pracharak Manohar Lal Khattar was sworn in as the first BJP Chief Minister.
The state is going to polls on the October 21 to elect members for its legislative assembly. On the one side, the BJP is going on the ground with their “Abki Baar 75 Paar” or the “Mission 75” slogan—as the party calls it. On the other side, the dynasties in opposition are still doing their bits to tie the flocks together. The grand old party with their new state Chief Kumari Selja, are trying to reconstitute the party. While the two Chautalas are in jail, and others are looking for a rescue plan.
In the small state like Haryana with too many regional parties, I think BJP’s mission 75 will be a cakewalk—owing to the scattered and demolished opposition dynasties. Now, let me take you to a few prominent political dynasties of the state to justify why I am using the terms “scattered” and “demolished”. The dynasties which are facing an existential crisis in the 14th Vidhan Sabha include:
1. Bansi Lal
The third Lal in the list is senior Congress leader Bansi Lal who served as the Chief Minister of state three times. Born into a family of Jats, Bansi Lal is recalled as the architect of the modern Haryana. He formed Haryana Vikas Party (HVP) which was merged with INC in 2004. His elder son Chaudhary Surender Singh a 2-time MP from Bhiwani was His political successor. After Surender’s death in a plane crash, his wife Kiran Chaudhry took over. Surender’s wife Kiran Chaudhary is an MLA, and their daughter Shruti Chaudhary is a former MP.
Shruti lost the last two consecutive general elections with a margin of over four lakh votes in 2019 and two lakh votes in 2014. Kiran Chaudhary was recently removed as the CLP Leader. After Surender’s death, with Kiran as the only active leader from the family now, Bansi Lal clan is not much effective among the people.
2. Chaudhary Devi Lal
Devi Lal or “Taau” as he was popularly called, was the first to set up a political dynasty in the state. He served as the sixth Deputy Prime Minister of India from 1989 to 1991 in V.P. Singh and Chandra Shekhar’s governments. He was also the founder of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). Taau was also popular for his son’s infatuation. His son Om Prakash (O.P.) Chautala served as the Chief Minister of state several times. His INLD won 19 seats in 2014 General Elections.
During the 2016’s Jat agitation, as the major opposition party, INLD was witnessing a rise but soon fell after the inner-party clashes. Due to this, INLD’s vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections shrunk to 1.9%. O.P. is currently in jail serving a 10-year sentence in the recruitment scam with his son Abhay Chautala, while his elder son Ajay Chautala, a former MP, broke the party after a power tussle. Ajay’s sons Dushyant and Digvijay then formed the Jannayak Janta Party(JJP). This newly-formed party stood second in its first election—the Jind by-election, defeating Senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala. JJP had tied the knots with AAP for 2019 general elections. The elections were a big wipeout for the new party, as except Dushyant Chautala, all JJP-AAP candidates lost deposits. The same case was with INLD too, as none of its candidates managed to secure deposits.
3. Bhajan Lal
In the Jat land of Haryana and among the three Lals Bhajan Lal was an exception, he was a Bishnoi. He became the sixth Chief Minister of Haryana from the Janata Party. His elder son Chander Mohan was the second Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana. But he was more known more for his love life. His younger son Kuldeep Bishnoi is an MLA from their family bastion Adampur. After being ousted from Indian National Congress, Kuldeep with his father founded Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) Bhajan Lal in 2007 but merged with INC in 2016 again.
Kuldeep’s wife Renuka Bishnoi is also an MLA, while their elder son Bhavya Bishnoi lost 2019 general elections from Hisar on INC ticket. Bhavya lost even at the Adampur booth, which Bhajan Lal used to call his “family”, after 52 years. Kuldeep was also defeated in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The Bishnoi family does not have much clout left in the state now. While in the caste-dominated politics of Haryana, Bishnois make up only 0.7%.
4. Bhupinder Singh Hooda
Bhupinder Singh Hooda is a senior Congress leader and has served as the Chief Minister of Haryana from 2004 to 2014. He is also a dynasty successor; his father Chaudhary Ranbir Singh Hooda was a senior Congress leader and an independence activist. Bhupinder’s son, Deepender Singh Hooda was a three-time MP from Rohtak. The father-son duo lost the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections from their bastions Sonipat and Rohtak.
Bhupinder Hooda was in a power tussle with the party high command for his nomination as Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) chief. Speculations of Hooda’s splitting the party were also doing the rounds. Despite the keen unlikes of Gandhi family, he was appointed as the CLP leader by the party. On the one side where CM Khattar’s clean image is the chief plank for BJP in Haryana, the former Chief Minister is in the rounds of CBI and ED in various land scam cases. This seems like the only hard-hitting dynasty on the verge but fighting for the same “existence”.
5. Kumari Shelja
Kumari Selja is among one of the prominent Dalit faces of the Congress in Haryana. She was recently appointed as the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) Chief. She was a cabinet minister in UPA-2. She is the daughter of Chaudhary Dalbir Singh, a three-time Congress MP.
So, these were the prominent dynasties of the poll-bound state of Haryana. All these dynasties, which once predominantly ruled the state for decades, are now on the verge of inexistence.
In Indian politics, Haryana is often recalled as the state of dynasty and Jat politics. But BJP’s non-jat and non-dynast formula is hitting the streets hard. CM Manohar Lal Khattar is a Punjabi and even a bachelor. Recently, he also announced not to give tickets to the relatives of BJP leaders. In a run-up to the elections, INC, which is suffering in power rivalries, recently replaced Ashok Tanwar with Kumari Selja as the state president. Whereas, they, too, come from a dynasty. Tanwar not entirely, but his father-in-law Lalit Maken was a Congress leader, and Lalit’s father-in-law Shankar Dayal Sharma served as the ninth President of India. However, Kumari Selja’s father Chaudhary Dalbir Singh was a towering Congress leader. Ashok and Selja both lost this year with more than three lakh votes.
The other major opposition INLD has also faded after its split into JJP, while its prime leader O.P. is also in jail. As I told you above, after the fractions and huge defeats, the party is deeply shaken from its roots and not much effective as it used to be.
BJP has completed its “Jan Ashirwad Yatra”, while the opposition is still scattered and trying to join their blocks to build the family flock again.
After decades, Haryana is applauding the non-Jat governance. The recent by-polls to the municipal corporation elections or even the Lok Sabha elections—all were swept by BJP here. CM’s Jan Ashirwad Yatra also received huge support in the state. This resulted in the opinion polls to predict the results favoring BJP. The result analysis of the general elections 2019 says the state is bored with the old dynasties. This seems like a direct indication for the opposition to look for a new dynasty or a new non-Jat dynasty. Although it’s not only Congress or HJC or INLD, BJP, too, has a few small dynasties. But they are running smoothly under the saffron wave. Will the state demand new dynasties or hug the old ones and gift 75+ to BJP? Only time will tell.