Eight years after the death of Bansi Lal, one of the three famed Lals of Haryana — along with Bhajan Lal and Devi Lal — who remained chief minister three times, the woman power of his family is slugging it out to preserve the political legacy at home turf in Bhiwani in the upcoming assembly polls.
Kiran Choudhry, widow of Bansi Lal’s younger son Choudhry Surender Singh who died in a chopper crash in 2005, is MLA from Tosham segment of Bhiwani and excise and taxation minister in the current regime. Kiran and Surender’s daughter Shruti Choudhry was an MP from Bhiwani parliamentary, but lost the 2014 Lok Sabha poll.
Bansi Lal who remained chief minister in 1968-75, 1985-87 and 1996-1999 was better known as the ‘architect of modern Haryana’, as from electrification in villages to concept of highway tourism, he pioneered it all. His elder son Ranbir Mahendra, too, is a political force, but his limits and aspirations are restricted to Badhra assembly segment under Bhiwani district.
In 2005, Mahendra was elected to the assembly from erstwhile Mundhal segment, but he lost election in 2009 from Badhra segment at the hands of INLD candidate Raghbir Singh by a slender margin of 709 votes. Besides politics, Mahendra’s interest in cricket also keeps him busy. He had remained president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in 2004-05.
Sombir Singh, son-in law of Bansi Lal and husband of Savita who retired as a government lecturer, has been struggling to carve a political space for himself in Loharu assembly segment. He was elected to the assembly from Loharu on Haryana Vikas Party (HVP) ticket in 1996 and on Congress ticket in 2005 following the merger of HVP. This time also, he is a frontrunner for Congress ticket from Loharu segment.
Though from Ranbir Mahendra to Lal’s other daughters namely Saroj, a retired IAS officer and Savita, wife of Sombir Singh, have residences in Bhiwani, the traditional ‘kothi’ of Lal is in possession of Kiran Choudhry.
Like Bansi Lal, the mother daughter duo holds ‘Janta Darbar’ at the traditional residence in day time to readdress public grievances.
In the recent Lok Sabha polls, riding the Modi wave, Dharambir Singh, arch rival of the Bansi Lal family, won Bhiwani Lok Sabha seat by beating Shruti Choudhry. Shruti’s third place finish in the contest certainly raised hackles in the family, but given the clout Kiran wields in the area owing to her cabinet rank portfolio the loss did not look that big. Shruti also polled more votes than the winning candidate from her family’s pocket borough comprising Loharu, Tosham and Badhra.
Kiran Choudhry’s cabinet rank in the Congress regime in 2005 and 2009 and representation of Bhiwani Lok Sabha seat by her daughter Shruti Choudhry after registering a victory in the 2009 general polls have put them ahead of other successors to nurture the political legacy of the former defence and railway minister, who was close to former prime minister Indira Gandhi.
Political experts say Kiran might not be having the charisma of Bansi Lal, who had high stakes not only in Bhiwani but in the entire state, but her fearless, aggressive and rebellious streak, which her estranged brother-inlaw Ranbir Mahendra also shares to some extent, keeps her relevant in the current political scenario.