The Deputy Chief Minister who famously gave up his career, family and religion for love in 2008 is back in front of the cameras — this time, in his original avatar, as Chander Mohan, son of Bhajan Lal.
Once known as Chand Mohammad, husband of Fiza, Chander Mohan is now the official candidate of Haryana Janhit Congress, led by his younger brother Kuldeep Bishnoi. Canvassing for votes in Hisar town, in the Nalwa constituency, Chander Mohan’s opening line at the doorstep of a voter goes like this: “Tau, thara chhora aa gaya (Tau, your boy has come).”
Almost six years after he left his wife for Anuradha Bali — the two converted to Islam to facilitate a second marriage although he divorced her through a telephone call within months — and two years after the former assistant advocate general of Haryana was found dead at her home, Chander Mohan’s rehabilitation appears to be complete. So much so that those campaigning for him now include his first wife Seema Bishnoi, mother Jasma Devi and sister Roshni Bishnoi.
In fact, Chander Mohan is considered a strong contender this time in a multi-cornered contest with Rajya Sabha member Ranbir Singh Gangwa of the INLD, former home minister and sitting MLA Sampat Singh of the Congress and Hari Singh of the BJP. More so because a major chunk of this town was earlier a part of the Mandi Adampur constituency, which has been represented by the Bhajan Lal family for nearly five decades.
“Please bless me the way you supported my father,” he tells people, obviously working on the respect that his father’s name invokes in the area.
“There is no home in the area which has not personally benefitted from Bhajan Lalji,” says Sita Ram Sharma, a voter at Muklan village. “He gave everybody a government job.Those families that did not have even two square meals a day have got half-a-dozen people each in government jobs now. How can they not vote for his son?”
On his part, Chander Mohan wants to ensure that his brother becomes the next chief minister of Haryana. \”I had vowed at the grave of my father to make my brother the chief Minister. And I will do everything that I can to honour that pledge.”
But not surprisingly, his rivals are keen to ensure that Chander Mohan remains tied down to ‘that controversy’. Anonymous posters have come up in some parts of the constituency, with images of him sharing intimate moments with Fiza. ‘He is coming to seek votes in your village, think for a moment’, goes the tagline.
Chander Mohan refuses to take the bait – in fact, he denies that he was ever really in love with Fiza, claiming that the controversy was the result of a ‘political conspiracy’. ”I have publicly apologised for it (the controversy) and sought forgiveness from my wife, my children, my parents and other family members. Though they have all pardoned me, I have transferred all my assets to my wife and children as a kind of atonement for what I had done. That is something which ordinarily even a 90 year old man would not do. This being the case, people are obviously not bothered when someone still rakes up my past.”
Many of the voters simply don’t seem to care, either. “It is all an old story, who cares about it today?” says Desraj of Mangali village. “Do you publish the same news after five years? Why bother about something which is buried in the past?”
Karam Singh, from Chaudhriwas village, has a different take – extra-martial affairs ‘are normal when it comes to rulers’. What really matters, he adds, is the candidate’s attitude towards people. “Chander Mohan treated everyone who went to his house at Panchkula for any personal work with respect. That way, he is even more amiable than his brother,” he says.
This comeback story had a final, political twist too: a rebellion by former Rajya Sabha member Ramji Lal, a close associate of Bhajan Lal and an influential OBC leader from the area. Apparently, Ramji Lal had been promised a ticket to contest from here. It finally took the persuasive powers of Jasma Devi to turn things her son’s way. Ramji Lal has since publicly pledged his support to Chander Mohan.
According to sources in the party, it was again Jasma Devi who was instrumental in Chander Mohan choosing to contest from
Nalwa in Hisar district, where his family has considerable influence, and not Kalka from where he was the MLA when he gave everything up for, what he had then claimed, was love.