YOU have to be ridiculously parochial to say something as outrageous as what Haryana thinks today, India thinks tomorrow. Risks rise further when you work out of a newsroom spilling over with Bengalis. But that is an old and truly genuine grievance with us Haryanvis. That we have always been denied our due as real trendsetters for modern India, particularly since the decline of Bengal started, in fields as far apart as politics and sport. Remember, however, that I said trendsetters. I made no claims to all trends set by us being virtuous. Certainly, political defection wasn’t.
A minor Haryanvi politician immortalised himself in India’s political history by giving it its most enduring Aaya Ram-Gaya Ram metaphor for defection. He was named Gaya Lal (how did his parents know?) and made history, crossing the floor three times in one day in the still new Haryana assembly in 1967. Then, because the rest of the country had still not woken up to the threat of the Aaya Ram-Gaya Ram culture, we served an even ruder reminder with the first en masse, and until now unmatched, defection of an entire ruling party and its cabinet. So Bhajan Lal’s Janata Party government overnight transformed itself into a Congress government. We Haryanvis, therefore, believe that we inspired the great reform called our anti-defection law. Or how two pesky Haryanvis, Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav, have transformed our politics, with their AAP adventure. But nobody gives us credit. We are such a tiny state after all.
We are resilient too. Many decades ago, Arun Shourie, then editor of this newspaper, explained our politics brilliantly in his front-page article “B. Lal, D. Lal, B. Lal” (after Bansi, Devi and Bhajan Lal). The three Lals are now gone, but their dynasties prosper. And true to tradition, one thing they have in abundance is political pragmatism. In this election, for example, Bhajan Lal’s son Kuldip Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) is in alliance with the BJP, and continues its blood feud with the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), being run by the grandson of Devi Lal ,while his father, Om Prakash Chautala, serves a jail term for corruption. This is where things get interesting. The INLD has also stated that they will support a Narendra Modi government at the Centre, whether he asks them to do so or not. Further, the Shiromani Akali Dal in adjoining Punjab, the BJP’s second