In scramble for seats, leaders keep Gaya Ram legacy alive and kicking

On Wednesday, when the senior Haryana BJP leader Pradeep Singh Sangwan, son of three-time Sonepat MP Krishan Singh Sangwan, quit the party and joined the Congress, there was hardly a ripple in the State’s turbulent election scene. The younger Sangwan is just one among a series of important leaders in Haryana who have switched parties in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election.

It all began with Venod Sharma — right-hand man of Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, former Minister and father of Manu Sharma, serving a sentence for Jessica Lal’s murder — who sent shockwaves down the polity when he broke his long-term ties with the Congress and attempted to join the BJP first and then its ally, the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC).

From being Mr. Hooda’s chief trouble-shooter and calling the shots in the nine years of Congress rule to a BJP wannabe, Mr. Sharma did a turnaround ostensibly to further his vast business empire that now includes television channels and newspapers, sugar mills, a hotel chain, real estate ventures and more.

Unfortunately for him, the BJP leader Sushma Swaraj objected to his joining the party and when the HJC offered to take him in and field him from the Karnal constituency, she vetoed that too.

Result: Mr. Sharma is currently neither here nor there, but was last heard saying that he would do everything to make Narendra Modi Prime Minister.

The BJP, however, lost no time in taking in the Congress leader Dharmabir, a Jat leader from Bhiwani, another long-time associate of Mr. Hooda.

Two days after leaving the Congress, Mr. Dharambir emerged as the BJP’s candidate for the Bhiwani Lok Sabha constituency, where he is facing Shruti Chaudhary of the Congress, granddaughter of former Chief Minister Bansi Lal. Mr. Dharambir, whose political base is the Bhiwani-Mahendragarh belt, knew that the Congress was unlikely to give him the ticket.

Sushil Kumar Indora, a former Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) MP, was brought into the Congress by Mr. Hooda in 2009. When the Congress did not give him the ticket from Sirsa and fielded Pradesh Congress Committee president Ashok Tanwar instead, he joined hands with the HJC, which fielded him from Sirsa.

In Gurgaon, sitting MP Rao Inderjit Singh had been taking potshots at Mr. Hooda for the better part of last year. His main grouse was the alleged regional bias of the Hooda government. He floated a non-political organisation called the Haryana Insaaf Manch to drive home the point, and eventually merged the outfit with the BJP when he joined it. He is the BJP candidate from Gurgaon.

Haryana, however, is no stranger to political turncoats as it was in the 1960s that Gaya Lal, an Independent legislator, who switched parties thrice in a day, gave it the epithet of being the land of “Aya Rams and Gaya Rams.” Gaya Ram’s legacy, as is evident, survives to this day.


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