A BHAI may be taken for an underworld don,but in Haryana,it is the most preferred prefix for a youthful leader. No wonder then that all three principal contestants in the Lok Sabha byelection in Hisar Jai Prakash (57) of the Congress,Ajay Chautala (50) of the Indian National Lok Dal and Kuldeep Bishnoi (42) of the Haryana Janhit Congress have chosen to have Bhai for a prefix. It is all over hoardings,posters and handbills.
For the record,Chautala Junior and Jai Prakash are in the fray. In reality,it is a proxy battle between INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala and Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Bishnoi does not have this advantage,but he is trying to make it up by invoking the name of his father and former chief minister the late Bhajan Lal.
Hooda,who has been camping at Hisar since September 27,has already visited 105 villages,seeking votes for Jai Prakash in the October 13 byelection. After having outmaneuvered AICC general secretary Birender Singh in getting the ticket for Jai Prakash,Hooda feels called upon to win the seat for his party. A three-time winner from the constituency,Jai Prakash is a party-hopper,having been in the outfits floated by Devi Lal and Bansi Lal earlier.
Birender Singh,who has defeated Chautala twice in 1980 and 1984 from this constituency,wanted the Congress ticket for his IAS son Brijendra Singh,currently deputy commissioner of Chandigarh.
Aankare bolte hain,bhed kholte hain (figures speak,reveal the mystery), Congress advertisements say,listing achievements of the Hooda regime. Chautala has released counter-data to question his. Hooda,during his meetings in Hisar,Barwala,Uklana and Narnaund Assembly segments cites the measures he has taken for the uplift of farmers. Chautala highlights the increase in the prices of fertilisers,LPG refills and essential commodities.
Hooda tries hard to drive home the point that the Chautala clan has a penchant for destroying local leadership in other areas by contesting from seats outside their home district,Sirsa. Saare Haryana mein kabaddi ghalte phiren (they are playing kabaddi all over Haryana), he says. PWD Minister Randeep Singh Surjewala goes a step further. He reminds people that the Chautalas are not content with just Haryana they get as far as Sikar,Danta Ramgarh and Nohar in Rajasthan and Ferozepur in Punjab to contest elections. You,the people of Hisar,must shut the door on them, he says.
One can figure out a stronger Congress attack on Chautala than Bishnoi. A senior party leader explains,Chautala would paralyse our government if Ajay wins by any chance. Besides,he says,it would necessitate an Assembly byelection in Dabwali,represented by Ajay. The Ratia seat is already vacant due to the death of an INLD MLA. The Congress,according to him,would be in for the worst if Chautala carries on his victory-run in Dabwali and Ratia. Bishnoi,on the other hand,does not pose any such threat. Even the Mandi Adampur seat,which Bishnoi represents,may offer the Congress a better opportunity to win in case of a byelection,he adds.
The INLD has come out with brilliant slogans like Dil ne kahi,Ajay ne suni; Kare jo kaam,ek hi naam,aapka vishwas,Om Prakash. A favourite chorus with the troupe,which precedes Ajay at his village meetings is: Tau tere pote mein,dikhe Devi Lal. A poster featuring Chautala Junior in a green head gear has this slogan written in English in bold letters: Ajay Chautala,Diamond Man.
Chautala is trying to dilute the effect of Bishnois alliance with BJP by enlisting the support of third-front parties. He got Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal,CPI general secretary A B Bardhan and Telugu Desam leader Nama Nageswara Rao at a massive rally here on September 25.
Bishnois posters feature him along with Bhajan Lal with photographs of a galaxy of BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee,L K Advani,Nitin Gadkari,Sushma Swaraj,Arun Jaitley and Harshvardhan on the top. Most Haryana BJP leaders are canvassing for Bishnoi,though no senior party leader has visited the constituency yet. Bishnois campaign theme: Vote for me and I would become chief minister and your Hisar would rule over Haryana. His logic: The BJP aligned with Devi Lal in 1987 and he got in to power; the party joined hands with Bansi Lal in 1996 and he became the chief minister; the party became an ally of Chautala in 2000 and he also became the chief minister; now,the BJP is with me and I will be the chief minister too.
Bishnoi has also given an assurance to Annas followers that he would support his Lokpal Bill.
There is a sharp division between Jats and non-Jats due to two developments: a movement for reservation of seats for Jats in educational institutions and jobs and the attack by Jats on Dalits at Mirchpur village.
Whatever the outcome,the Hisar byelection is sure to be a turning point. It would show who would pose a bigger challenge to the Congress in the state from now on Chautala or the BJP-Haryana Janhit Congress combine?