New twist: Flag-bearer of Bhajan Lal’s legacy Kuldeep Bishnoi gravitates towards BJP

Published on Aug 04, 2022 03:35 AM IST

What Kuldeep Bishnoi brings to BJP is not only political legacy of his father but also Bhajan Lal clan’s rare hold over the Adampur assembly segment in Hisar district where the family has never suffered a defeat

Kuldeep Bishnoi hands over his resignation to Haryana assembly speaker Gyan Chand Gupta as MLA from the Adampur constituency in Haryana, in Chandigarh on Wednesday. Flag-bearer of Bhajan Lal’s legacy, he will formally come under the wings of the BJP on Thursday. (Keshav Singh/HT)
Kuldeep Bishnoi hands over his resignation to Haryana assembly speaker Gyan Chand Gupta as MLA from the Adampur constituency in Haryana, in Chandigarh on Wednesday. Flag-bearer of Bhajan Lal’s legacy, he will formally come under the wings of the BJP on Thursday. (Keshav Singh/HT)
By, Chandigarh

Congress rebel Kuldeep Bishnoi, who will formally come under the wings of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday, is being seen as a valuable asset for the saffron party which has been shrewdly attempting the consolidation of non-Jat communities in Haryana.

Bishnoi, the suave four-term MLA, is also a two-time Lok Sabha MP. What he brings to the BJP is not only the political legacy of his father Bhajan Lal, who remained Haryana chief minister for 12 years but also the Bhajan Lal clan’s rare hold over the Adampur assembly segment in Hisar district where the family has never suffered a defeat.

Political observers say the Bhajan Lal family has been representing the Adampur seat in the Vidhan Sabha continuously for the past five decades. Former non-Jat chief minister Bhajan Lal, his wife Jasma Devi, son Kuldeep Bishnoi and daughter-in-law Renuka Bishnoi have won from this seat since 1968. The constituency has a dominant Jat vote bank followed by a substantial Bishnoi population. But in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Bishnoi’s son Bhavya Bishnoi had trailed by nearly 23,000 votes from this family fortress and lost the election.

Born on September 22, 1968, Bishnoi, the flag-bearer of the legacy of Bhajan Lal, has been engaged in a bitter cold war within the party after the Congress’ victory in the 2005 assembly election in Haryana.

This electoral victory had sown the seeds of distrust deep enough between the Congress and Bishnoi after the party in a shrewd move appointed Jat leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda as the chief minister, instead of non-Jat leader Bhajan Lal.

Though as a compromise formula Bhajan Lal’s elder son Chander Mohan was made deputy chief minister, the distrust kept growing. In a counter-offensive, Kuldeep Bishnoi with his father’s support floated the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) in 2007 and quit the Congress.

And his resignation from the Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday, a step to leave the Congress, comes six years after he had merged the HJC in the Congress in April 2016.

According to Prof Ashutosh Kumar, a political scientist in Panjab University, Bishnoi having a solid hold over the Adampur constituency is a hallmark of a good leader. “He looks like a reasonably good leader who attracts young voters also. He will be an asset to the BJP,” Prof Kumar said, pointing out how his father Bhajan Lal had consolidated non-Jat communities’ social support base also.

Bishnoi made an electoral debut in 1998 when he won the byelection from his family citadel Adampur. In 2004, he won his first Lok Sabha election from Bhiwani when he humbled then chief minister OP Chautala’s elder son Ajay Singh Chautala and former chief minister Bansi Lal’s son Surender Singh of the Haryana Vikas Party.

The Panjab University alumnus Bishnoi graduated in public administration and went on to become MLA in 1998, 2009, 2014, and 2019 and Member of Parliament in 2004 and 2011.

While Bhajan Lal was a towering leader his elder son Chander Mohan blemished the clan’s reputation through his “misadventures” when he converted to Islam to get married the second time when he was deputy chief minister in the then Hooda government.

And the stylish Bishnoi had been struggling to recover from the 2009 setback when his HJC MLAs defected to help the Congress gain a majority and Hooda became CM again.

Observers say Bishnoi has been an absentee MLA, both inside and outside the state assembly in the last two terms. “His over-reliance on his lineage and political legacy has made him an inaccessible politician,” they said.

The political rivalry with Hooda came to the fore again when Bishnoi began unfurling the banner of revolt after the Congress high command did not appoint him as the Haryana Congress chief and instead backed his political bete noire Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s confidante Udai Bhan.

Bishnoi, who was feeling deeply wounded after he failed to meet the Congress high command, finally retaliated by cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha election ensuring the defeat of the party nominee by a whisker. The Congress expelled Bishnoi from all the party posts, but the BJP had already decided to reward him.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Pawan Sharma, based in Chandigarh, is Punjab’s Chief-of-Bureau, Hindustan Times. In the past 16 years, stints in Delhi and Himachal Pradesh including, he has done high-impact stories on Tibetan affairs, judiciary, politics and corruption in governments.

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