It’s just as well that government employees don’t know what Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s family thinks of their tribe. If they did, they would think twice about serving under Hooda. The CM’s grandfather’s elder brother (‘barey dada’) Ramji Lal believed that honesty was not required in a government job. His take: “A person who is an expert in khushamad (sycophancy) and knows how to twist figures in accounts and statistics is fit for a government job.” To the Jats, Ramji Lal’s message: “Show the world the stuff the Jat nation is made of.” Inspiring stuff. Ironically, his grandson has government employees at his beck and call.
If Hooda had not quit his legal practice in a huff he may not have made it to the top slot.
It was a victory in a land dispute that cost him his profession. After winning the case, he found an octogenarian in his chamber more hurt than angry. He was Rup Chand, the defeated party in the case. Seeing Hooda he started sobbing helplessly. Presuming that he could not handle defeat, Hooda told him to appeal against the order. “I have lost cases before. Losing one more will not kill me,” Rup Chand had shot back. “What will kill me is your callousness. Our family served yours for generations. I cleaned your father’s shoes and you, his son, put me in the dock.” That evening, Hooda stepped out of his chamber and never returned.
Another memory haunts him: when he nearly drowned to death. A little off Haridwar, the surge had killed his cousin. Hooda was lucky. But his brush with death changed his entire outlook. “Life is a flash, there one moment, gone the next,” he says.
His father, Choudhari Ranbir Singh, was a freedom fighter and member of seven legislatures including the Constituent Assembly. Indira Gandhi had once said that he took care of her as if he was her ‘grandmother’. But when it came to his son, ‘Bhupi’, Ranbir Singh had to resort to pressure tactics to bring him back on track. Hooda had been a chain smoker since college. On several occasions, he did try to give up smoking, it did not go beyond a few hours. At best, it lasted two days. It was when he lost his brother to cancer that his father panicked. He counselled Bhupi but when nothing worked Ranbir Singh resorted to a hunger strike. Finally, Bhupi relented. He quit smoking two years ago — on August 15.