Family drama in Hisar as scions vie to prove their clout

The fight for the Hisar Lok Sabha seat is as much about the families of three legendary Haryana politicians vying to establish their political pre-eminence as it is about electing a new MP.

The outgoing MP, Dushyant Chautala, 31, who is seeking re-election, is the great grandson of former Deputy Prime Minister and former Chief Minister Devi Lal.

Challenging him is Union Steel Minister Birender Singh’s son Brijendra Singh, a former bureaucrat who is the BJP candidate. Mr. Singh’s family traces its roots to Sir Chhotu Ram, arguably the tallest Jat leader in pre-Independence India.

And making it a triangular contest of scions is the Congress’s 26-year-old Bhavya Bishnoi, the grandson of former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal.

The mothers of all three candidates are MLAs.

Chautala’s track record

The Chautala family member is defending his turf on the basis of his record as an MP. From helping get electricity connections for 4,000 houses to opposing the Union Transport Ministry’s move of categorising tractor trolleys as commercial vehicles, the MP lists his actions before the voters.

“I was your voice for the past five years, but now you have to be my voice and campaign for me,” Mr. Chautala tells the residents of Neoli Khurd village, 16 km from Hisar town.

Though he was elected on Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) ticket in 2014, Mr. Chautala has moved away and floated the Jananayak Janata Party (JJP), which has tied up with the Aam Aadmi Party.

“They can’t ask for votes in their own name on the basis of work; so, they are asking for votes in the name of Modi [Prime Minister Narendra Modi],” Mr. Chautala said.

And it is not without reason that Mr. Chautala focussed his speech entirely on the BJP and its candidate.

Modi matters more

“There is little doubt that as an MP he has worked for the village, but Modi is ahead,” said Guggan Ram Sharma in Neoli Khurd, signalling that the Prime Minister mattered more than the local candidate.

“There have been two strong leaders so far,” Mr. Sharma said. “Earlier, there was Indira Gandhi and now there is Modi who can give a fitting reply to Pakistan,” he said, quickly adding, “Now, there is WhatsApp and we get to know everything immediately.”

Though the quality of the mobile network in the village is patchy, the villager’s comments showed that the BJP’s campaign pitch of offering “decisive” leadership was having quite a few takers in this village.

Mr. Chautala, however, shrugged off voters’ perceptions of the BJP on this issue.

“The candidate’s father, Birender Singh is the Union Steel Minister, and Hisar is the steel capital of Haryana. But they have not taken one step to help the steel industry,” Mr. Chautala said. “In fact, three small units have shut down in Hisar.”

Campaigning in the Adampur Assembly segment, the BJP’s Mr. Singh urged “voters not to fall prey to forces that focus on region and communities”.

“The entire State has made up its mind to strengthen Modiji and take the country towards comprehensive development,” he said, as he went door to door canvassing.

Voter split-up

Of the 15.65 lakh voters in Hisar, more than 5 lakh are Jats. Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes make up the next biggest chunks. The constituency has a sizeable number of Brahmins, Bishnois and Punjabis.

In 2014, Mr. Chautala bucked odds by defeating Kuldeep Bishnoi — Bhajan Lal’s son — whose Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) was then an ally of the BJP.

A sharp polarisation between Jats (43%) and non-Jats (40%) tilted the scales in favour of Mr. Chautala.

But, politically, equations have changed in 2019. Mr. Bishnoi has merged the HJC with the Congress, while there are two Jat candidates in the fray — Mr. Chautala and Mr. Singh.

A split in the Jat votes and a consolidation of the non-Jat votes could well determine which party wins this time.

Vote wisely: Congress

Making his debut in this highly competitive space is the younger Mr. Bishnoi, whose late grandfather Bhajan Lal was once a prominent leader in these parts.

Apart from banking on high-profile campaigns by Navjot Singh Siddhu and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra ahead of voting, the Congress is focussing on the BJP’s “failed promises” of doubling farmers’ incomes, creating jobs and prosperity. “Vote wisely in the upcoming election and learn to distinguish your own from others,” said the Congress candidate at a meeting at Boubua, about 30 km from Hisar.


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