Two Interesting Rallies In One Week Infuse Excitement In Boring Haryana Politics Dominated by Farm Agitation For A Year

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The two rallies attended in the past one week by two leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Rao Inderjit Singh and Chaudhary Birender Singh, in two different districts of Jatland have ushered some excitement in Haryana's political environment.

Two rallies held in different districts of Jatland in past one week have infused some excitement in Haryana's political environment, which has been boringly dominated by nothing but farmer protests against the centre's agricultural reforms since last December.

Both the rallies are interesting only because of the involvement of two leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who it had imported from the Congress just before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Both are currently not happy with the BJP.

The first one was on 23 September in Jhajjar, which falls in the Rohtak Lok Sabha constituency. Five-time Member of Parliament from Gurugram Rao Inderjit Singh addressed the rally at district's Patauda village where annual 'Shaheedi Diwas Samaroh' was being observed by Yadav community to mark the martyrdom of Rao Tula Ram, who had fought against the British in the first war of independence in 1857.

By organising the function in Jatland this time, Rao Inderjit Singh was sending a signal and putting up a show of his strength outside Ahirwal region of South Haryana, where Yadavs are in significant numbers and have firmly stood behind the BJP in the last two assembly elections only because they are loyal to Rao Inderjit Singh whose father Rao Birender Singh was Haryana's second chief minister though he had a rather short stint.

Not only Rao Inderjit Singh enjoys sway over at least 12-15 assembly seats in South Haryana, three Lok Sabha constituencies of Gurgaon, Mahendragarh-Bhiwani and Rohtak are hard to win without his backing. Rohtak got added to this list in 2019 when Deepender Singh Hooda found out the hard way importance of Rao Inderjit. Hooda Jr. got trounced so badly in Yadav dominated assembly segment of Kosli (part of Rohtak Lok Sabha) that leads in all the rest of eight assembly segments weren't enough to make him retain his seat.

It wouldn't be wrong to say that the BJP would've struggled to form the government in Haryana at least in 2019, if not in 2014 also if he was in some other party. Moreover, if there is little traction of farm protests in mostly rural South Haryana, it's because he is in the BJP.

However, neither the Ahirwal region nor Rao Inderjit have benefitted much from the BJP's government. In fact, the party has only taken this important base and its leader for granted over the last seven years. Ahirs have little say in party's or government's affairs in the state. The region hasn't got any big development projects.

Rao Inderjit has only been a token minister of state in the Union Cabinet since 2014. Even after 2019, he had to be content with tiny promotion as MoS (independent charge). However, being an astute politician, due to lack of options and electoral mood on the ground in favour of the BJP, he has hidden his dissatisfaction well and has been biding his time. Until now.

There is no love lost between Rao Inderjit and Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and the latter did try to cut the former to size during the last assembly elections in the Ahirwal region, much to Rao's displeasure. Even that didn't do as much damage as events of last month have done. In August, newly inducted Union Cabinet Minister Bhupendra Yadav, who was born in South Haryana but lived mostly in Rajasthan, held a Jan Ashirwad Yatra in the Ahirwal region leading to speculations that the party's high command was trying to directly challenge Rao in his own backyard by parachuting a candidate from outside.

Khattar's actions were thought of as standalone one by Rao for it's natural for a CM, that too one who has no support base of his own, to be apprehensive of the stature of a mass leader like Rao. But Bhupendra Yadav's yatra was seen as a plan by the party's Delhi command to cut him to size and create a new leader of Yadavs in Haryana from within the BJP's stable.

If crowd is any indication, Rao certainly proved his point. On the stage of the rally, he also managed to get many prominent leaders such as Haryana BJP president Om Prakash Dhankar, Rohtak MP Dr Arvind Sharma, Bhiwani-Mahenderagarh MP Dharambir Singh, Sonipat MP Ramesh Chander Kaushik, Rajya Sabha MP D P Vats and several MLAs.

Rao didn't mince any words while registering his unhappiness. "Were we awarded in proportion to our contribution?" he thundered as the crowd replied with a clear and loud 'no'. “Aaj BJP aur unke neta thode se chhetar me simat kar rah gaye hain. Hamare wal chhetar ke andhar,” he said. (Today, the BJP and its leaders are restricted to a small area - my area).

He took a dig at the party's leadership saying that there were two ways for one to become a leader. "Either the party 'parachutes' a leader or the public supports you from the bottom. I am proud of the fact that I have come up from bottom with support of the people," he said.

Rao has made one thing clear: the BJP's survival in Haryana now largely depends on goodwill in Ahirwal region, where he has the biggest sway and the party can't afford to disrespect him by events like Bhupendra Yadav's yatra.

Two days after Rao Inderjit's, another rally was organised on 25 September by 86 year old disgraced former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala who recently got out of Tihar Jail after completing his 10 year imprisonment in Teacher Recruitment Scam for which he was sentenced in 2013. The so-called 'Samman Diwas Samaroh' held in Jind was to mark the 108th birth anniversary of former deputy prime minister and Chautala's father Devi Lal.

For the purpose of this piece, the rally was interesting because of enthusiastic participation by BJP leader Chaudhary Birender Singh who fully backed the farmers' protests. "In the fight for farmers and their rights, there will soon be a time when a leader will emerge and farmers will say, 'follow him, we will be successful", he said. Neither Singh's attendance at the rally nor his views are surprising. He had met OP Chautala few months ago and he has been a vocal supporter of farmers agitating against the centre's three farm laws.

Unlike Rao Inderjit Singh, Chaudhary Birender Singh has little to complain against the BJP because the party has not only treated him with utmost respect but also fulfilled all his wishes. When he quit the Congress and joined the BJP, he was made Rajya Sabha MP, his wife Prem Lata was given a ticket in assembly polls in 2014 from his bastion Uchana Kalan which she won after defeating Dushyant Chautala. In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, on Singh's demand, his son Brijendra Singh was given a ticket from Hisar Lok Sabha which he also won, defeating Dushyant Chautala. Singh resigned his Rajya Sabha seat in exchange for this deal.

What explains Singh's actions then, his going against the party's stand and dalliance with OP Chautala, his biggest rival in the state politics once upon a time? The answer lies in BJP-JJP alliance and Dushyant Chautala becoming Deputy Chief Minister, who was also on Singh's target during Saturday's (25 September) rally. Dushyant split the Chautala family's party INLD after differences with his grandfather OP Chautala and uncle Abhay Chautala in 2018 and formed the JJP with the help of his brother Digvijay and father Ajay Chautala (who was also jailed for 10 years along with his father in 2013).

In 2014, Birender Singh's wife Prem Lata defeated Dushyant Chautala from Uchana Kalan assembly seat. Their son also defeated Chautala from Hisar Lok Sabha seat in 2019. But in assembly elections held later that year, Dushyant, in his new avatar as leader of a new party, avenged his defeats and trounced Prem Lata from Uchana. But after post poll tie-up with the BJP, Dushyant became Deputy CM while Birender, his wife and son have not tasted power. Moreover, if the coalition survives, there is a good chance that Uchana Kalan seat will be given to the JJP in the next election and Birender Singh will forever lose his family bastion.

Due to farm agitation, Dushyant's popularity has been hit badly and Birender Singh sees an opportunity to corner his arch-rival. Of course, he can do so more comfortably if he gets a little help from his even older rival OP Chautala.

Singh first won from Uchana in 1977 and except 1987, 2000 and 2009, he has represented this constituency five times. His main rival has always been from Chautala's party. In 2009, it was OP Chautala himself, an outsider who defeated Birender Singh by 600 odd votes. To avenge this loss, Singh had fielded his wife in 2014 against Chautala's grandson. Who would've thought then that the Chautalas would split soon and Singh would've to take help of his former Chautala rival to defeat his new Chautala rival.

It would be interesting to see how things play out in future, which surely looks interesting as far as Haryana is concerned.

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