Kiran Chaudhary And The BJP's Search For A Jat Face In Haryana

  • Haryana is undergoing a rather interesting churn, laying bare the problems with the Congress leadership in Haryana.
  • Is the BJP placing its bets right?
  • Rohit PathaniaFriday, December 2, 2022 10:09 am IST
    Congress MLA Kiran Chaudhary
    Congress MLA Kiran Chaudhary

    Rumours in the political circles of Haryana are rife once again. This time, rumour has it that Kiran Chaudhary, a multiple-term MLA of the Congress, might shift to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

    The name generates significant interest among Haryana’s political pundits - Kiran is the bahu (daughter-in-law) of Bansi Lal, three-time chief minister of Haryana and a leader who was extremely close to Sanjay Gandhi and Indira Gandhi in his heydays. 

    Chaudhary has of course scoffed at the rumours, saying she is a ‘true Congressi’. However, that may not be the end of it. There are several layers to this ‘rumour’ and they lay bare the problems with the Congress leadership in Haryana. 

    The rift between Chaudhary and Bhupinder Singh Hooda is not new, and is somewhat of an open secret within the party and outside.

    Randeep Singh Surjewala was also a casualty of this alongside her, as Hooda has sought to sideline all potential challengers to his leadership within the party.

    Already, people like Kumari Selja sit sulking within the party, having been sidelined by Hooda’s man — Uday Bhan — in the party’s daily affairs. 

    Chaudhary would be another major Congress leader after Kuldeep Bishnoi to join the BJP, if that happens, and would join the list of names like Chaudhary Birender Singh and Rao Inderjeet Singh among others. 

    And given that Dushyant Chautala is also an ally of the BJP, what is also fascinating is that, should Chaudhary make the switch, all the three leading political dynasties of Haryana would be within the BJP-National Democratic Alliance (NDA) camp.

    As someone quipped in half-jest, the BJP could actually go ahead and say ‘Saare Lal, Sadde Naal’ (all the Lals are with us), alluding to the Punjabi origins of its present Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. 

    The scenario of course also looks rather awkward for the BJP in more ways than one. The BJP with its united spectrum of Hindu votes strategy would definitely like to have prominent Jat faces of Haryana to be members of the party or at least the NDA. 

    However, this step, if it materialises, would actually reinforce the stereotype about the BJP’s state unit being unable to have any Jat faces of prominence of its own.

    Captain Abhimanyu had become a casualty to the sentiment following the agitations for reservations, which had even seen his house being burnt down in 2016. Since then, the party has been seeking to build bridges, even taking up an alliance with Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janhit Party (JJP). 

    In such a scenario, it is natural that the BJP would like to be less dependent on another political party for building its ideal social base. 

    But is the BJP placing its bets right? This is a question that needs to be looked at carefully. 

    The recent Zila Parishad elections in Haryana threw up an interesting surprise especially in Tosham in Bhiwani, considered a stronghold of the Bansi Lal family. 

    The BJP has apparently managed to make significant inroads here, even securing the chairman post of the Zila Parishad, much to the embarrassment of the Congress, despite Kiran Chaudhary’s personal intervention.

    It must also be pointed out that presently, of the four Vidhan Sabha seats of Bhiwani, three are with the BJP. 

    Is the BJP in that case seeking to bring a leader who would not really add much strength to the party?. 

    Then there is also the question of the legacy of Bansi Lal. 

    Bansi Lal had essentially served as the right-hand man of Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency. As defense minister of the period, he had earned Haryana the ignominy of housing the highest number of political prisoners in the country for the period at his behest. 

    Moreover, the abuse of power that he engaged in was well known. Amongst the most notorious of cases, was one which was also highlighted in the Justice Shah Commission report.

    This involved the harassment, internment and torture of Commander Pritam Dutta for not giving a lackey of Bhajan Lal, a sub-agency of a liquor franchise managed by Commander Dutta.

    As the Commission observed in a scathing indictment:

    "An innocent citizen, who had given the best part of his life to the service of the Nation, was got imprisoned and he remained in jail for a month. The irreparable damage to the reputation and social standing that Cdr Dutta had suffered by the vindictive operations of Shri Bansi Lal and Shri Mehtani cannot be adequately compensated or even atoned for." 

    Given this memory, the BJP would also perhaps not gain any laurels from critics and supporters alike by bringing in Kiran Chaudhary. 

    Haryana is undergoing a rather interesting churn, with Bhupinder Singh Hooda essentially leading it, thanks to his actions and rivalries. Perhaps, not all of it is necessarily advantage BJP, as the case of Kiran Chaudhary would suggest.

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