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3 Lal clans fight battle of survival in Haryana

September 17, 2019 04:59 AM


3 Lal clans fight battle of survival in Haryana
LITMUS TEST With BJP’s rise, the families face their toughest fight in make-or-break assembly elections in state


Pawan Sharma

Chandigarh : The three Lals of Haryana, Bansi Lal, Bhajan Lal and Devi Lal, ruled the state for nearly three decades but today their clans fight their toughest battle for survival with the assembly elections coming up in October. The rise of the BJP after its first solo victory in the 2014 assembly elections and the win in all 10 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state this May show just how the descendants of the three families have been pushed to the margins.

It’s a rocky time in politics for the clans as they brace for a make or break election. The upcoming slugfest for the 90-member Vidhan Sabha will be a litmus test.

“The three Lals were never great adherents of principled politics. Rather, they were well-versed with the Haryana model of rough and ready politics,” says Ashutosh Kumar, a professor of political science at Panjab University, Chandigarh.


During the first 33 years after Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966, its three Lals ruled for 28 years. From 1968-99, Bansi Lal, known to be tough and efficient; Ch Devi Lal, who was rustic but awe-inspiring; and Bhajan Lal, who almost always had his way; became the chief ministers of Haryana.

Three-time chief minister Bansi Lal ruled for 13 years. Former deputy prime minister Devi Lal’s two terms as CM lasted four-and-a-half years.

Two-term CM Bhajan Lal, a non-Jat leader, who made headlines in 1980 when he as CM of the Janta Party government walked over to the Congress along with his cabinet, ruled the state for 11 years.

But with the state on the cusp of deciding its next government, the three clans of the once-powerful Lals are now a pale shadow of their past. Things have come to such a pass that the three families could find it difficult to save their own backyard from the Bharatiya Janata Party this time.

“The charisma of the three Lals has diminished,” says Rohtak-based political analyst Rajendra Sharma. Their kin lacked their political acumen, stature and appeal. “For instance, Devi Lal was a coalition builder but his son OP Chautala didn’t have the skill to build social and political coalitions,” says a retired professor of political science at Kurukshetra University.


Ashutosh Kumar says the lack of leadership skills led to the clans facing an existential crisis. “The rise of the BJP is bad news for state parties, especially the caste-based ones,” he says.

The worst hit is the clan of Bansi Lal, the most effective administrator among the three Lals. His son, Surender Singh, died in a helicopter crash in 2005, weeks after becoming a minister in the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government. Now his wife and Tosham MLA Kiran Choudhry is the flag-bearer of the family legacy. In patriarchal Haryana, she has been struggling for recognition as inheritor of Bansi Lal’s legacy. Her daughter, Shruti Choudhry, suffered the second consecutive defeat in the Lok Sabha elections by more than 4 lakh votes.

The influence of Bhajan Lal’s two sons is also confined to a few seats, while Chautala’s two sons look ordinary in comparison to their grandfather.

Bhajan Lal’s elder son, Chander Mohan, was in caught in controversies such as converting to Islam to get married a second time when he was deputy chief minister, while the younger one, Kuldeep Bishnoi, was unable to recover from the 2009 setback when Haryana Janhit Congress MLAs defected to help the Congress gain majority and form the government.

His wife, Renuka, represents Hansi, while their son, Bhavya, not only lost his deposit while contesting as the Congress nominee from Hisar Lok Sabha seat, but also lost by 23,000 votes from Adampur segment, which his father represents.

The split in Chautala’s family over controlling the INLD dealt a crippling blow to the party and Devi Lal’s legacy.

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