A master of his craft, three time Haryana chief minister, Bhajan Lal will always be remembered as a crafty politician. For someone who made a rather modest political beginning as a village panch-sarpanch, his meteoric rise in Haryana politics was phenomenal.
He along with late chief ministers Devi Lal and Bansi Lal formed the famous trio of Lals who dominated the political scene of Haryana for over three decades. Soft spoken and genial in his approach, Lal won everyones heart with his easy going mannerisms. Bhajan Lal had switched sides to contest on a Janata Party ticket in 1977 from Adampur assembly constituency.
His second and final detour from Congress came in 2007 when he along with his younger son, Kuldeep Bishnoi floated a new political outfit, Haryana Janhit Congress. Denial of chief minister’s chair to him after Congress won a comprehensive victory in 2005 assembly polls had left Bhajan Lal shell shocked.
He was the state Congress president at that juncture and was assured by party high command of CMs throne. However, party’s decision to appoint his bete-noire, Bhupinder Singh Hooda as the chief minister had left him absolutely stunned,’’ said a Lal loyalist. The event also marked a watershed in the political fortunes of Lal family. The fledgling HJC which was floated with an eye on the non-Jat vote bank flattered to deceive, winning just one seat in 2008 by elections. In 2009 Lok Sabha polls too, the HJC managed to win just one seat. Though the party won six seats in the 2009 assembly elections, it suffered reverses when five of its legislators switched sides to join the ruling Congress.
In a political career spanning over four decades, Bhajan Lal had seen the best and worst of times. During his heydays, a not so educated Bhajan Lal bragged about having a “Ph.d” in politics.
His political maneuvers were at display in 70s and 80s, when he effected mass defections to form his government in Haryana. In 1982 despite being in a minority, Bhajan Lal led Congress was invited to form the government by then Haryana Governor GD Tapase. The incident had left Lok Dal leader, Devi Lal fuming. Such events gave him the label of master of game of ‘Aya Rams and Gaya Rams’. Bhajan Lal gained ascendancy on the state political scene for a number of years and he remained a union minister in Rajiv Gandhi government holding portfolios of environment, forests and agriculture. In 90s, he developed close proximity to the then Prime Minister, Narsimha Rao and was said to have played a role in providing stability to his government with his political maneuvering. Perhaps his closeness to Rao did not go well with the Gandhi family and hurt his political prospects subsequently in the Congress.
The political setback in 2005 and HJC’s uninspiring performance by HJC in subsequent elections had literally left Lal and his sons in political wilderness. His age and failing health did not do him or his outfit any good. But till his last, he stood tall winning almost all his electoral battles on his own steam.