Setbacks aplenty, the worst phase for Bhajan Lal’s heirs

  • Rajesh Moudgil, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Sep 08, 2014 17:03 IST

The tallest non-Jat leader of Haryana, Bhajan Lal ruled the state for over a decade and won election after election for over four decades but his political heirs and sons, Chander Mohan and Kuldeep Bishnoi are passing through the worst phase of their political lives.

Bhajan Lal (October 6, 1930 to June 3, 2011), who was also known as state’s most wily politician, remained chief minister thrice — from 1979 to 1985 and 1991-1996.

The last among the famed Lal trio — Devi Lal and Bansi Lal being the other two — Bhajan Lal belonged to the Bishnoi community, who virtually started from scratch and with his anti-Jat stand, consolidated non-Jat votes and rose to the highest levels. His critics describe Bhajan Lal as the “father of Aya Ram Gaya Ram (defection) culture” in Haryana.

Born at Koranwali village of Bahawalpur district (now in Pakistan), Bhajan Lal was a selfmade man who once sold wares on his bicycle and won his first election as a village panch.

He was first elected to the Haryana assembly in 1968 from Adampur (Hisar) constituency and except for 1987 — when his wife Jasma Devi won from there after he went to the Centre, he won all his elections from there. Out of his eight elections from Adampur from 1968 to 2005, Bhajan Lal contested on the Congress ticket every time, except in 1977 when he was a Janata Party candidate.

He became chief minister of Haryana first time on June 28, 1979, and again on May 23, 1982, and remained in the chair till June 4, 1986. Later, he was elected to Rajya Sabha and served in the union cabinet, holding the agriculture and environment and forest portfolios in the Rajiv Gandhi government.

He was elected to Lok Sabha from Faridabad seat in November 1989, won from Karnal in 1999 and from Hisar (2009).

However, the clan faced a setback in 2005 when Bhajan Lal was sidelined after the assembly elections and the Congress made Bhupinder Singh Hooda the chief minister.

Though his elder son Chander Mohan was made deputy CM in the Hooda government, Bhajan Lal decided to part ways with the Congress along with his younger son Kuldeep Bishnoi and floated the Haryana Janhit Congress.

However, the clan suffered another setback when Chander Mohan was dismissed from the state cabinet for his prolonged absence from the office. It turned out that he had married an advocate, Anuradha Bali, after converting to Islam and adopting the names of Chand Mohammad and Fiza on December 2, 2008.

On January 29, 2009, Chander Mohan left Bali, saying he still loved his first wife and his children. He thus converted back to Hinduism and was readmitted to the Bishnoi community. Bali, on the other hand, was found dead under mysterious circumstances at her house August 6, 2012. Though the HJC bagged six seats in the 2009 assembly polls, five of his men joined the Congress leaving Bhajan Lal alone. Kuldeep lost the recentlyheld Lok Sabha election, after which his wife, Renuka Bishnoi, also resigned as MLA.

Another blow came to the HJC when it lost both the LS seats, Hisar and Sirsa. Its ally for three years, the BJP, subsequently refused to go by the old seat-sharing agreement with the HJC for the assembly polls, anguishing the latter. The HJC snapped ties with BJP a few days ago.

With the HJC now allying with the Jan Chetna Party floated by former Congress MLA Venod Sharma, it has to once again start from scratch to regain and maintain the legacy Bhajan Lal once built and left.

It has now striven itself full throttle into the poll mode.

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