They were cricket buddies in the early eighties. But, now they are neighbours in Adampur’s Anaj Mandi Lane popularly known as 10 Janpath — home to many political bigwigs — fighting it out against each other to wrest the Adampur seat in Hisar district.
Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) chief Kuldeep Bishnoi (46) who is aspiring to become chief minister is taking on former confidante Kulveer Singh Beniwal (47) of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) from a seat largely represented by the former’s family.
Both Bishnoi and Beniwal families live in shop-cum-residential buildings 106-07 and 105, respectively, of Adampur’s famous guar and pearl millet mandi.
This proximity is seen as the reason for Beniwal entering politics, and contesting on a Congress ticket from Bhattu segment in Fatehabad in the 2005 assembly elections. He also went on to win with the ‘blessing’ of the Bishnois.
He famously portrayed himself as Bhajan Lal’s ‘third son’ in that election. However, when Bhajan Lal left the Congress to form the HJC, Beniwal stayed back.
Adampur segment, which is considered a stronghold of the Bhajan Lal family, has been represented by Lal himself, apart from Kuldeep and his wife Renuka Bishnoi. Lal won eight times from the segment.
With Kuldeep nursing chief ministerial ambitions, the stakes are high for the Bishnoi family, especially after the fallout with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the recent drubbing at the hands of INLD’s Dushyant Chautala in the parliamentary polls from the Hisar parliamentary segment of which Adampur is a part.
Beniwal, after his victory in 2005, however, could not manage a ticket in the 2009 assembly elections. But, he fought from here against Renuka Bishnoi on a Congress ticket in the 2011 bypoll and was defeated by nearly 13,000 votes.
The 1.5 lakh strong electorate in this segment largely consists of Jats with around 29% share. Bishnois constitute 18%.
But, Kuldeep, who lost from Hisar, managed a lead from Adampur.
Apart from Bishnoi and Beniwal, there are 12 contenders for this assembly seat, including first-timer Satinder Singh from the Congress. But, they are being seen as fringe players.
The HJC chief completed his three-day-campaign on Friday and is learnt to have told supporters that he would next visit Adampur only a day before the elections as he has to tour the state. His campaign here is spearheaded by his son Bhavya Bishnoi along with his supporters.
“It is not my election. This election is of the Adampur people, their prestige and honour. They will campaign for their honour. The area has faced utter neglect at the hands of the Congress government,” says Bishnoi, at his residence in Hisar on Saturday evening while discussing strategy with party leaders. He had just returned from a one-day-tour of Jagadhari.
Meanwhile, Beniwal is trying to make the most of Kuldeep’s absence. “Has he ever showed up here? Neither has his wife Renuka Bishnoi, who was an MLA from the seat,” remarks Beniwal at a public rally in Kaholi village here.
“Now, if he shows up here, assume that your bad days have started. He made his father sit at home. His mother also lost the election. Let him stay out of this place,” says Bishnoi’s former friend amid laughter from the cheering crowd.
As a convoy of SUVs heads to another village, Beniwal explains, sitting in his Scorpio, why he has strong chances of winning — “Bishnoi rarely shows up here. People know now that he is not going to become the chief minister. So, I am their best bet. I am always there for them, in good and bad times.”
However, Bishnoi rubbishes the claims. “It is his frustration that is talking. Let the people of Adampur judge whether I am there for them or not.”
Bishnoi adds that Beniwal betrayed his family and that the people would make him pay for it.
Kuldeep Bishnoi (HJC)
Kulveer Singh Beniwal (INLD)
Kuldeep Bishnoi won by defeating Congress’ Jai Prakash by 6,000 votes. In the 2011 bypoll, Renuka Bishnoi defeated Kulveer Singh Beniwal by 13,669 votes.
Backward Class: 23,000