End of Lal era in Haryana politics

June 4th, 2011 - 4:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, June 4 (IANS) For over three decades, Haryana’s political scene has been dominated by three Lals. The trio of Devi Lal, Bansi Lal and Bhajan Lal have virtually shaped the state’s destiny since its inception Nov 1, 1966. But with the death of three-time chief minister Bhajan Lal in Hisar town Friday, the Lal era has come to an end.

The ‘Lals of Haryana’, as they were described by the media, remained chief ministers for nearly 28 out of the 31 years between 1968 and 1999.

While Devi Lal and Bansi Lal hailed from the politically-dominant Jat community, Bhajan Lal held on his own as a non-Jat leader. He hailed from the Bishnoi community and was a small trader in Adampur town near Hisar before starting his political career at the local level.

All the three Lals remained with the Congress party at some stage. While Devi Lal was associated with it during the pre-Independence days, Bansi Lal left it in 1996 while Bhajan Lal parted company in 2007.

Devi Lal, father of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) president and former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, remained chief minister of Haryana between June 1977 to June 1979 and again from July 1987 till December 1989.

In 1989, he became the deputy prime minister of India and remained in the post till June 1991. Devi Lal died in April 2001 at the age of 86.

Bansi Lal, who was known for his strict control over the administration, was chief minister thrice - from 1968-1975, 1985-87 and 1996-99. Much of the development in Haryana took place under his first two tenures.

In his third tenure (1996-99), after quitting the Congress party in 1996 and forming his own outfit - the Haryana Vikas Party (HVP), Bansi Lal’s decision to bring total prohibition in Haryana became quite unpopular.

Bansi Lal was also a powerful union minister in the Indira Gandhi government - holding the important portfolios of defence, railways and transport. He was used by her and her son, Sanjay Gandhi, to implement some of the harsher measures during her represssive emergency rule 1975-77.

He died March 2006. He was 78.

Bhajan Lal, who started with the Congress in 1968 when he was first elected as a legislator from Adampur seat, switched to the Janata Party in 1977.

Known for his acumen to engineer quick defections by legislators, Bhajan Lal walked out with several Janata Party legislators in 1979 to join the Congress. He then managed to get invited to form the government by the then governor G.D. Tapase despite being in a minority in 1982.

The incident led to Devi Lal, who was not called to form the government despite claiming numbers, slapping the governor.

Bhajan Lal too was chief minister thrice - from 1979-82, 1982-86 and 1991-96. He led the Congress to a thumping victory in the 2005 assembly election but the Congress high command sidelined him and appointed Bhupinder Singh Hooda as the chief minister instead.

This left Bhajan Lal sulking. He finally floated his own party, the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), in December 2007 with younger son Kuldip Bishnoi.

Bhajan Lal died Friday at the age of 80 years after a heart attack.

With the era of Lals coming to an end, the spotlight has shifted on the next generation of leaders from their families.

Devi Lal’s son Om Prakash Chautala is the leader of opposition in the state assembly. His grandsons, Ajay and Abhay Chautala, are also legislators.

Bansi Lal’s daughter-in-law Kiran Chaudhary is a cabinet minister in the Hooda government. His grand-daughter Shruti Chaudhary (daughter of Kiran Chaudhary), is the MP from Bhiwani Lok Sabha seat.

While one of his sons, Surender Singh, who was a cabinet minister, died in a helicopter crash March 2005, his elder son Ranbir Singh Mahendra, who was a former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), was also a legislator in Haryana till 2009.

Bhajan Lal’s elder son Chander Mohan, a four-time legislator from the Kalka seat, was deputy chief minister of Haryana from 2005-08. His younger son and Adampur legislator Kuldip Bishnoi is the president of the HJC.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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