New Delhi: Be it any party, sons, daughter and grandchildren of prominent leaders are entering the poll fray reaffirming that politics is deeply entrenched in their families. Voting will take place on May 12 in all ten seats of Haryana.
Grandchildren of three former Haryana Chief Ministers, Devi Lal, Bhajan Lal and Bansi Lal will be contesting. Digvijay Chautala, grandson of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) founder Chaudhary Devi Lal, is contesting from Sonepat on a Jananayak Janata Party ticket; Bhajan Lal, Bishnoi’s grandson Bhavya Bishnoi is the Congress candidate from Hisar; and Congress’ Shruti Chaudhary, granddaughter of Bansi Lal, is contesting from Bhiwani Mahendragarh.
Three-time Rohtak MP Deepender Singh Hooda, who is the son of former Haryana CM and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda and grandson of Congress leader and part of the erstwhile Constituent Assembly Ranbir Singh Hooda, is looking for a fourth term in the Parliament, as well.
The prominent Chautala clan, which split last year following a bitter family feud, is being represented by three of its members. JJP, formed in December last year after Ajay Chautala and his sons separated from INLD, is fielding Dushyant and Digvijay from Hisar and Sonepat respectively. The third, Arjun Chautala, son of Abhay Chautala, is the INLD candidate from Kurukshetra.
JJP made its electoral debut early this year in Jind bypoll and left some impact when Digvijay finished second behind BJP candidate Krishan Midha. In its first Lok Sabha poll appearance, JJP is banking on Dushyant Chautala, Digivijay’s elder brother, to retain his Hisar seat, where he is up against Congress’ Bhavya Bishnoi. Digvijay, meanwhile, is the JJP candidate from Sonepat, where he will square off against Congress’ Bhupinder Hooda.
The 27-year-old is confident about his Lok Sabha debut, despite a former CM contesting on the same seat against him. Digvijay is banking on the sentiment of Sonepat residents who still hold his grandfather, Devi Lal, in high esteem. “Look, there is an atmosphere against BJP. The local MP is facing backlash during his village visits. And ‘Hooda ji’ had already said that he did not want to contest elections, but did so because his party asked him to. So he is helpless,” Digvijay said.
According to him, even if Hooda won from Sonepat, he would depart the region for Kiloi to contest Assembly polls six months later. The people of Sonepat would then have to elect an MP again. “If he commits to Sonepat for five years then I’ll accept he is more suitable, but if he is leaving, why should the public’s effort and money be wasted to conduct re-elections?”
Digvijay also said he was following in the footsteps of his grandfather, father and elder brother, and just like them he had chosen not to contest at home turf. When asked about the clout of political families in Haryana, Digvijay said responsibilities are indeed passed down to generations.
“Look, Devi Lal, Bansi Lal were big leaders. Devi Lal had a big contribution in Haryana’s formation and everyone knows how he fought and struggled,” Digvijay said, “So today, being from their future generation, we have a responsibility on our shoulders. People have higher expectations from us. But when people like Dushyant come in and deliver, people are assured that Devi Lal’s blood is not just asking for votes, but also working for them.”
According to the JJP candidate, one could get elected once in the name of their father or grandfather, but they would have to work to get elected a second time.
“Leaders from my family were elected from different seats in different states. My father won from Rajasthan, in Danta Ramgarh. My brother breached Bhajan Lal’s stronghold in Hisar. Devi Lal ji won from Sikar and Rohtak. Today, I have got a similar opportunity in Sonepat,” Digvijay said. “People in different regions accept our ideology and are ready to support us. So why not? If I don’t take up that responsibility, then who will?” he asks.
Bhavya Bishnoi, 26, is also following a long line of leaders from his family into politics after spending his early years as an aspiring cricketer. He is the son of Congress MLAs Kuldeep and Renuka Bishnoi and grandson of former Haryana CM Bhajan Lal. He played the ‘gentleman’s game’ for Delhi, before completing his education abroad and taking up the political mantle in his family.
“Look, India has enough good cricketers and even if I become a successful cricketer, I’ll only make a marginal difference. However, there is a dearth of good politicians and if I were to try my best, I have the potential to make revolutionary change in my constituency, state and beyond,” Bishnoi said.
Bishnoi is bidding to retake Hisar, considered a political bastion of his family, from incumbent MP Dushyant Chautala, who had defeated his father Kuldeep Bishnoi in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. “It is still our stronghold and it is our home,” Bishnoi said. “The circumstances that led to our defeat last election were to some extent beyond our control. They are very different today.”
Bishnoi said he didn’t see his candidature as product of dynastic politics, but as ‘an expression of democracy’. “See, we are living in a democracy, at the end of the day the power rests in the hands of the people. And we belong to the biggest and the oldest national party in the country. If the national leadership has taken a certain decision, they do it after thorough assessment and proper survey of all available candidates,” Bihsnoi said.
The Congress candidate claimed that his family has delivered on people’s expectations and hence the party had trusted him to deliver. “So I don’t see it as dynastic politics, it’s just people’s expectations, love and expression of democracy.”