It was in the 1987 assembly elections, when this poll manager played a key role in decimating four-time chief minister Bansi Lal who was at the prime of his political career at that time. Twenty-seven years later, Rajbir Singh Lala, fondly called as ‘Lala’ in this part of Bhiwani, is pitted against the Lal family, as Kiran Choudhry, flamboyant minister in the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government, eyes third consecutive win from Tosham.
Lala is brother of Bhiwani-Mahendergarh Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP and four-time MLA Dharambir Singh, who left the Congress before the recent Lok Sabha elections. Singh and the Bansi Lal family are old rivals and the rivalry increased after Singh had to vacate Tosham seat for Kiran Choudhry in 2005 in her electoral debut in the state after the demise of her husband, Surender Singh.
Tosham has remained a stronghold of the Lal family. But it was in the 1987 assembly elections, when fighting on the Lok Dal ticket, Dharambir Singh defeated Bansi Lal from this segment. Lala, brother of Singh was a key player in the election management of his brother in that election and since then has been part of Singh’s team.
Singh, this time, tried to manage Tosham ticket for his brother but as the BJP refused to give ticket to kin, Lala is now fighting as an Independent candidate. The BJP has fielded Gunpal, a supporter of Dharambir Singh family this time.
“It is ridiculous situation here. The BJP seems not to be in fray here. Their local MP, Dharambir Singh, is going against the party and circumventing Modi’s tirade against ‘bhai-bhatijabad’. He has not bothered about diktat of own Prime Minister and is campaigning against the party candidate,” charges Kiran Choudhry alleging that Gunpal was a ‘dummy candidate’ and Dharambir Singh was helping his brother, Rajbir Singh Lala in the election.
But Lala terms her allegations as baseless. “Dharambir is a loyal BJP worker and working for the BJP candidate. Can’t two brothers fight from different parties? What about Rahul Gandhi and Varun Gandhi?” says Lala. But the campaign style of the BJP candidate is a talking point in the area. Gunpal is seeking votes against Kiran Choudhry by targeting her and exhorting voters to choose a good candidate. But who is the good candidate? He does not mention it.
Factors at play
Both Lala and Choudhry belong to the dominating Jat community, which accounts for 33% voters in the segment, where polling happens largely on caste lines. But insiders expect division among Jats as well, as Lala is from the Panghal clan with 7,000 votes in five villages. Dharambir Singh’s family enjoys good rapport with Panghals. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), with rural vote base mainly among Jats, has fielded Kamla Rani, wife of former officer on special duty (OSD) Vidyadhar, who is in jail in connection with the JBT teachers recruitment scam along with Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala. Though she comes from a backward caste, her being an INLD candidate would poll her Jat votes apart from BC votes. Followed by Jat, two big other vote banks are SCs and BCs where the Congress enjoys a good support. But Ved Pal Tanwar, a Rajput leader and Haryana Janhit Congress candidate, could eat into this vote bank as well due to his support to anti-caste protests in the area.
Witty versus flamboyant
Wearing a ‘churidar’ suit and dark glasses as she settles on a chair in Anaj Mandi after reviewing arrangements for Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s rally, Kiran Choudhry says it was a ‘no-contest’ in Tosham as people treat her as ‘head of their family’.
“I have always tried to assuage their sufferings. After Rohtak, Bhiwani is the second place in the state in terms of getting government money for various projects,” says Choudhry.
Modi’s pittance has vanished from people’s life, which won them 2014 Lok Sabha elections in which her daughter also lost to Dharambir Singh, she said in same breath.
“Here, people offer best thing to their son-in-law when he visits his wife’s family. After Modi came to power, the best thing people have to offer to their son-in-law is half tomato in a salad tray,” she says reminding of a poll slogan in the area, “Modi tere raj main, zeeri (paddy) gai byaj main”.
Cut to Lala’s campaign. It’s noon at Kairu village and temperature is hovering over 35 degrees Celsius, when a man clad in white kurta-pyjama with sports shoes is taking quick steps from door to door with his hands folded. “Bus full ho rahi hai, jaldi aaja,” he says to a villager taking seat in his Bolero car as he failed to pacify him. The villager was upset as Lala could not help him in a brawl, which occurred at his son’s marriage.
“I was bulky since my childhood. So, my parents used to call me Lala. Now, everybody knows me by this name only,” says Lala, a BSc graduate and a former teacher. Witty Lala is a good companion in a vehicle and those with him say they fight to sit with him because he entertains a lot. Lala explains how he was jailed by Bansi Lal when he was a student leader during Emergency. So Lala-ji what about Kiran Choudhry, your opponent? “Bhagwan Unki Aayu Lambi Kare. Keechad main paththar maaro khud par girega,” pat came the reply from him as his convoy headed towards another village.