“We have a relationship of the heart with the family of Chaudhary Devi Lal. It is above every other relation. We can sacrifice our lives for each other,” Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had said while campaigning for the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in Haryana during the Lok Sabha polls this year.
Badal and his son and deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), have reiterated this commitment by again aligning with the INLD for the Haryana assembly polls, pitted against Punjab ally BJP.
Spanning over four decades, the Badal-Chautala family ties have only grown stronger, cemented by a prime land deal and unflinching support during jail stints and elections. And the BJP, which is now resenting its alliance with the SAD, had not long ago even worked to fortify it.
Way back in 1989, the Haryana State Industrial Development Corporation (HSIDC) had at the behest of the then CM, Devi Lal, allotted a prime 17-acre industrial plot in Gurgoan to Sukhbir’s firm Orbit Resorts. After his government was toppled by “ally” BJP in 1999, Bansi Lal, the Haryana Vikas Party founder, had accused BJP CMs of pressuring him to withdraw the special leave petition (SLP) filed by his government in the Supreme Court for resumption of the said plot worth over Rs 200 crore given to the Badals for Rs 4 crore.
In a hard-hitting statement in January 2000 after the SC dismissed the SLP, Bansi Lal had said the land had been restored to Badals by the then Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala as part of a “deal” – making Chautala CM by toppling his government. “The lawyers representing Haryana in the SC were changed by the Chautala regime two days before the hearing and RS Rai, who was earlier the advocate for the HSIDC in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, was later appointed as advocate general of Punjab by Badal while Mahabir Singh, who was advocate on record for Badal in this case in the Supreme Court, was later appointed advocate on record for Haryana by Chautala. It was a family deal. Let Haryana and its interests go to the dogs for Mr Chautala,” the statement said.
And pressure to restore the land to Badals, says a book penned by veteran journalist BK Chum, came from BJP’s then Delhi CM Madan Lal Khurana and then Rajasthan CM Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Quoting Bansi Lal, Chum says, “After Bansi Lal, who was then Haryana CM in alliance with the BJP, told Khurana he would not be able to do anything as the case was in SC, Khurana told him he should just ask his lawyers to remain quiet when Badals’ lawyers argued the case.”
Bansi Lal had also alleged that when Orbit gave an undertaking in the SC in December 1999 that the project would be completed in two years and outstanding dues paid, the Chautala government did not contest it and the SLP was disposed of.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had also flagged the issue in 2002, estimating a huge loss to the state exchequer from the deal.
Quid pro quo
Both the Badals and the Chautalas have returned “personal” favours during their stint at power as neighbours. Badal was in jail when his daughter Perneet Kaur got married to Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, and it was Devi Lal who performed all the rituals of a father. Badal constructed a huge bust of Devi Lal along the Haryana border in Punjab after returning to power in 1997.
Later, in 2002, when Badal was being hounded by Congress CM Capt Amarinder Singh, including freeing the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) of the Badals’ control, Chautala came to their help.
In a petition filed against the state of Haryana, Balbir Kaur, wife of an SGPC member, had sought the court’s intervention in securing the release of her husband from the “illegal custody” of Parkash Singh Badal and Haryana CM Chautala, alleging that SGPC members were being illegally detained at the 350-acre farmhouse of Badal at Balasar in Sirsa district with the help of the Haryana government.
The third Lal of Haryana politics, Bhajan Lal, as leader of opposition in the Haryana assembly, too, had accused Chautala of ignoring the issue of construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal owing to his “friendship with Badal”.