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Cong ‘tragedy king’ gets big role in BJP

Birender Singh | 68 Rural development, Panchayati Raj, water and sanitation.

Written by MUKESH BHARDWAJ | Chandigarh |
November 10, 2014 3:04:42 am
singh Birender Singh signs after taking oath as cabinet minister at Rashtrapati Bhawan on Sunday. (Source: Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)

Birender Singh  | 68 Rural development, Panchayati Raj, water & sanitation

“People call me tragedy king,” Birender Singh told Amit Shah when he joined the BJP, referring to promises made to him and not kept while he was in the Congress, and urged the BJP chief to ensure no more tragedies happen to him. And Shah promised him, “Neither tragedy nor comedy will happen to you.”

But even the BJP kept him waiting, cutting him out of contention for the chief minister’s chair by fielding his wife Prem Lata rather than him in the assembly elections. Birender Singh, however, was always confident that better things lay in store. “The party must have made certain plans for me. I am waiting,” he then told The Indian Express.

Birender is among the four Cabinet minister inducted Sunday. He isn’t a member of either house but will almost certainly be taken into the Rajya Sabha, with two seats from Haryana vacant .

It is a reward to a leader who is the BJP’s first pan-Haryana Jat face. Jats are a constituency the BJP is still trying to tap, with its Assembly victory seen largely as a non-Jat consolidation. Other Jat leaders such as Captain Abhimanyu and Om Prakash Dhankar wield their influence only in their home constituencies, while Birender extends the party’s reach among Jats to Jind, Hisar and former chief minister B S Hooda’s Rohtak.

It is because of Hooda, who he says was once his election agent, that Birender left the Congress after 42 years, a stint with a break in between. He also surrendered his Rajya Sabha membership. Birender blames Hooda for two missed opportunities — a purported assurance by Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 to make him chief minister, and a supposed promise by Manomhan Singh in 2013 to make him railways minister. When Birender’s IAS officer son was denied the Hisar ticket, Birender again held Hooda responsible.

In 1984, Birender defected to the Tiwary Congress but came back when the party merged with the Congress. He was then MP from Hisar; this was when he claims Hooda was his poll agent.

Though the BJP is banking on Birender as its Jat face, he has had limited success in claiming the legacy of his grandfather Sir Chhotu Ram. It is INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala and then Hooda who have claimed the space of the leader of Jats after Chhotu Ram.

Birender lost his home constituency of Uchana Kalan in 2009 to Chautala. The Congress made him general secretary in charge of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where the party won the assemblies. When he was removed, the talk was he would be taken into the union cabinet.
He got a ticket to the Rajya Sabha courtesy his connections with the Congress leadership but his differences with Hooda touched their peak. He called for Hooda’s removal after the loss of nine of Haryana’s 10 Lok Sabha seats. When the high command threw its weight behind Hooda, he started cultivating a relationship with the BJP.

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