Devi’s Lalshttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/devis-lals/

Devi’s Lals

Dabwali has long been associated with Devi Lal. But even the late deputy prime minister perhaps never imagined that one day it would come to...

Dabwali has long been associated with Devi Lal. But even the late deputy prime minister perhaps never imagined that one day it would come to this: most of the candidates in the fray this time belong to the big Chautala clan,and all are claiming to be the true inheritors of his legacy.

While Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda can claim to have a stake in the battle as his Officer on Special Duty Kamalveer Singh jumped the fray after resigning from his post,the fact remains that even the latter is reminding voters of his blood ties with Devi Lal rather than his official relationship with Hooda.

Dabwali always returned a Devi Lal clan member while it was a general constituency and has been voting in their representative after it was reserved. Now,after delimitation,it has again become a general seat,drawing Ajay Chautala.

Devi Lal’s grandson and Indian National Lok Dal chief Om Prakash Chautala’s son,Ajay is the foremost in the family sweepstakes,followed by uncle Kamalveer Singh,who is fighting on a Congress ticket,and cousin Ravi Chautala,who has thrown his hat in the ring as an Independent. The son of Pratap Chautala,the estranged brother of Om Prakash Chautala,Ravi had been seeking a Congress ticket,but after Hooda chose his ex-OSD over him,he decided to fight as an Independent.

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Even the candidate of the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) — set up on that other Lal name,Bhajan Lal — has fielded Kuldeep Bhambu,the son of Devi Lal’s sister.

Ajay Chautala claims the fact of so many dipping into the same Devi Lal pool of votes doesn’t bother him. “This is our family seat. We belong to this place and the people of the area have always maintained our family pride,and the same would be repeated,” he says. Their village Chautala and their famous farmhouse Teja Khera is situated in Dabwali.

Ajay visited the constituency right at the beginning,asking the people to work for him,and has virtually left it at that. “I will work like a bull for you but right now you all take charge of my election as I have to travel to other parts of the state for the party,” he said.

Kamalveer,the son of one of Devi Lal’s cousins and the eldest of the family members in the fray,is equally confident. “People want an alternative from within the family and they find it in me because I am the one from the family who is a stranger to arrogance. I have my roots in the public and a strong standing in the government. People of the area know that the constituency will progress leaps and bounds if represented by a ruling party member,” he says at public meetings.

It is not the first time,incidentally,that Kamalveer is fighting against Chautala family members. But it is the first election he is fighting after being so closely associated with the Chief Minister. His political future depends on how he performs.

The last five of the six elections from Dabwali were won by a nominee of INLD,Sita Ram. This time though with Ajay jumping into the fray,Sita Ram doesn’t even figure in the list of candidates. While there was some simmering of discontent among his supporters initially,he later joined the campaign,unlike colleague Sushil Indora from neighbouring Ellenabad,who deserted the party to join the Congress after he was left out.

Asked what prompted him to fight from the family constituency after a long time,Ajay says: “We belong to the area and have always remained attached to it.”