Loyalty with Bhajan Lal family runs deep in Adampur

With BJP’s Bhavya Bishnoi, the grandson of former three-time chief minister late Bhajan Lal, securing a win over former CM Hooda’s pick Jai Prakash in Adampur by-poll, it is clear that Lal clan continues to have a sway over voters in its stronghold. A report by Rajesh Moudgil

With his win from Adampur assembly seat, Bhavya Bishnoi, 29, the son of former Congress leader Kuldeep Bishnoi, has not only retained the family stronghold but also registered his maiden victory of his political career, beating Congress’ Jai Prakash, aka JP, 67, with a margin of 15,714 votes.

Except for the two candidates named above, all the other candidates including Kurda Ram Nambardar of Indian National Lal Dal (INLD) and Satinder Singh of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ate the dirt as they lost their deposits.

This bye-election was necessitated after Kuldeep Bishnoi had quit Congress in August this year and joined BJP reportedly for not making him the state party chief, much to the chagrin of party top leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

Hooda and his MP son Deepender Hooda repeatedly visited Adampur, while AAP national convenor and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, and his Punjab counterpart, Bhagwant Mann campaigned for AAP nominee Satinder Singh. The INLD supremo, O P Chautala led the campaigns for party’s candidate Kurda Ram Nambardar. The contest saw three CMs Manohar Lal Khattar (Haryana) and two former CMs, besides a battery of several senior leaders frequenting Adampur and thus making it a battle of prestige for the major players.

However, Adampur seat has always been won by Bhajan Lal or his family members since 1968. Bhavya is the third generation and fifth member of Bhajan Lal family to have won the seat as earlier, besides his grandfather, his grandmother Jasma Devi, father Kuldeep Bishnoi and mother Renuka Bishnoi have represented the seat. In all, Bhajan Lal or one of his family members have won 15 times from Adampur assembly.

Yet, this bypoll was not a cake walk for Bhavya as he had faced a brutal drubbing as a Congress candidate in his maiden electoral test in 2019 for Hisar parliamentary poll when he even lost his deposit against BJP’s Brijendra Singh.

This bypoll was also crucial for the BJP as it had lost two bypolls since it came to power in 2014 – Baroda seat to Congress in 2020 and Ellenabad seat to INLD in 2021.

Interestingly enough, all the four candidates in the fray were in Congress previously. Bhavya, nonetheless, hoped to have an advantage; as he belongs to the Bishnoi community while his trio rivals came from the Jat community which comprised over 45% of votes in this constituency having over 1.7 lakh votes followed by Bishnoi votes – with over 25%. The seat also has over 25% SC votes and about 10% each of OBC, Brahmin, Baniya and Punjabi votes. This means Congress might fail to garner its traditional vote share and the Jats’ might get divided in Adampur. And, it seemed to have worked

Wrong move?

On the other hand, Hooda or other Congress leaders may hate to admit it, reports were galore that Hooda’s pick Jai Prakash entered the fray with a tag of  “an outsider’’ as he belonged to Kaithal district.

Hooda, who is currently leader of Opposition in state assembly, also invited wrath from some quarters within the party after he and his MP son Deepinder Hooda pushed themselves full throttle into the campaigning for JP so as to garner credit in case of his victory.

Such was the scenario of the campaign that even a senior leader remarked that leaders intending to just mark their presence at the campaign and just to do a formality for JP were not really required. This reportedly offended several of the senior leaders. It was said to be in this wake that some of the senior party leaders winced in distaste.

Former party president Kumari Selja, Randeep Surjewala, Kiran Chaudhry were conspicuous for their absence during campaigning.

Khattar’s shrewd move

The BJP, its ally Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) and a battery of all the senior leaders of the two partners on the other hand closed ranks behind Bhavya. The support worked wonders for the young candidate despite the fact that the JJP (deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala) and the family of Bhajan Lal had always been bitter rivals before.

Then came the final blow – the scathing attack by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on his predecessor Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and there could not be a better timing for the same; Khattar asked the people of Adampur to “teach a lesson” to those who “betrayed” former chief minister Bhajan Lal … and end the long gap of 26 years for the Bhajan Lal family for being out of government.

Khattar went on to say, that Bhajan Lal was contender for CM’s chair but overnight a conspiracy was hatched to sideline him and those who hatched it are now seeking votes from you today. They betrayed the people of Adampur, he said and added that it was time to “teach a lesson to them and settle the scores’’.

Pertinently, it was in 2005 that the Congress had won the assembly election winning a whopping 67 of the total 90 seats of Haryana under the leadership of Bhajan Lal. However, the Congress high command, appointed Hooda as the chief minister side-lining Bhajan Lal. The Congress veteran and his younger son Kuldeep left Congress 2007 and floated their own Haryana Janhit Congress.

Accusing Hooda of not doing any development work in Adampur constituency because it was Kuldeep Bishnoi’s area during his two terms as the chief minister between 2005 and 2014, and he was MLA from there, Khattar asked the people of Adampur to make Bhavya victorious, saying that “now he would take care of the rest’’.

Stating the BJP-JJP had ended caste-based politics, which prevailed in the state earlier, Khattar pointed out that during the Congress rule at the Centre and in Haryana, the scams and corruption were rampant. Lashing out at Hooda and his Deepender, Khattar alleged the Congress in Haryana had been reduced to a party of “Bapu beta’’ (father-son).

Hailing Bhavya’s win, Khattar said that with this victory, now, the number of the BJP members had reached to 41, while the Congress had come down to 30.

Among the top leaders the BJP fielded senior ministers in the Khattar government included home minister Anil Vij as well as a number of party MLAs, ministers and MPs from the state.

Cong strong in state: Hooda

However, Hooda and party state chief Udai Bhan have held after the results that the Adampur bypoll outcome clearly showed the Congress was very strong in every region of the state.

Bhan held that even though the BJP, JJP, INLD and the families of Bhajan Lal, Chautala, Birendra Singh had united against Congress, the people of Adampur, despite all their gimmicks, coalitions and secret and alliances gave around 52,000 votes to Congress.