Kuldeep Bishnoi is the one-man army of the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), the party his father, former chief minister Bhajan Lal, had floated in 2007 after breaking away from the Congress. The drastic step was taken after the Congress sidelined Bhajan Lal and elevated Bhupinder Singh Hooda as the CM in 2005.
The ex-CM’s death in 2011 necessitated a byelection from the Hisar Lok Sabha seat, which Bishnoi went on to win by a small margin of around 6,300 votes.Bishnoi is not only the HJC president but also the lone MP from his party in Parliament. He carved a niche for himself when he defeated Ajay Chautala, son of former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, and ruling Congress candidate Jai Prakash in the 2011 byelection.
Despite being in the opposition, he is known to make his supporters and senior party members wait for him. His personal assistants are often seen expressing regret over not honouring prior appointments. He operates mostly from his Gurgaon farmhouse and goes into oblivion after raising key issues such as the land acquisition policy, the special economic zone (SEZ) and favouritism in jobs.
Though he lacks his father’s command of politics and hold on the electorate, he manages to influence the youth, going by the participation of young people at his public meetings.
He draws strength from his loyalists and voters, specifically in the Adampur assembly segment, and Bishnoi pockets spread across Hisar, Fatehabad and Sirsa assembly constituencies, owing allegiance to Bhajan Lal, whose legacy he tries to cash in on.
Bigger than his aim of being re-elected as an MP is his target of queering the pitch for the ruling Congress in the state in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Bishnoi claims that he managed to pull crowds in all 90 assembly segments of the state during his two-month-long Vijay Abhiyaan Rath Yatra last year. "It was the longest political yatra in the country’s history, which culminated in a major rally at Hisar on December 1, 2013," he adds.
Ashok Kadiyan, an entrepreneur whose business is based in Hisar, says, “So far, being his image as Bhajan Lal’s son is paying him dividends. His rise as the non-Jat leader in state politics has also made him popular in the area.”
Raju Babu, who works at a mobile repair shop in Hisar, lauds Bishnoi for development. “He is extremely popular in this region. The state government was forced to undertake development in Hisar to break into his pocket borough.” Mamta Rani, a housewife, who lives in urban estate, says: “Bishnoi’s non-Jat identity could be a double-edged sword during the elections.”
Part 25 of 34:
Paramjit Kaur Gulshan, Faridkot