The current Haryana Leader of Opposition from Congress Party- Bhupinder Singh Hooda was the Chief Minister of Haryana from 2005 to 2014.
During this time Hooda on one hand established himself as the strongest Jat leader of the state. Simultaneously, he also cultivated a cult following in the three Jat dominated districts of Rohtak and surrounding areas.
The Jats of Rohtak, Jhajjar and Sonipat would enjoy ‘VIP status’ during Hooda’s ten-year rule that they used to get postings of their choice in government jobs.
Though-developments in all spheres took place throughout Haryana, people of these Jat dominated districts boasted of their development work done to build Hooda’s image of ‘Vikas Purush’.
This image if at one hand helped Hooda win some political mileage also caused enough heartburn in some of the people of the remaining 19 districts of the state. But certainly, the Jat community of this region especially took pride in having a caste man placed on the throne of the agrarian state.
The neglected Rohtak region got a boost in terms of infrastructure in his tenure and local people here obliged his son Deepender Singh Hooda to reach in parliament three times consecutively. Hooda’s loyalists on party tickets always had an edge in elections from this region.
However, before 2005, Hooda’s only fame was that he had defeated former Deputy Prime Minister and extremely popular Jat leader Devi Lal three times from Rohtak Lok Sabha seat.
Earlier, the chair of the Chief Minister of the state seemed to be the fiefdom of the leaders of Bagri. Devi Lal became the first Chief Minister. Then his son Om Prakash Chautala took the position.
Apart from these, if Bhajan Lal and Bansi Lal became the Chief Minister, they were also from Bagri. But, the people of old Rohtak or Deswali belt never got the chance that a leader among them should become the Chief Minister.
The rights and dues of Rohtak region were not given priority in the development model of previous chief ministers and hence the need of installing the chief minister of dominating caste from the region was being desperately feld.
However, since the formation of Haryana as a separate state, Rohtak was a stronghold of the state’s political activities. Big leaders like Devi Lal made Rohtak their karmabhoomi and tasted the fruits of political success. But, the Rohtak voters did not get the benefits in return.
Rohtak’s public urge to reach the corridors of power has been pacified by Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Bhim S. Dahiya, author of the book called ‘Power Politics of Haryana’, says that the dominating community of the state has always struggled for lion’s share in power irrespective of loyalty for any political party or leader.
“For them sharing in power is important and for that they did not mind breaking the party instead of accepting the submissive role in the affairs of politics”, mentions Dahiya in his book.
Bhupinder Singh Hooda is a third generation Congressman in his family. He united the vote bank of Jats. Hooda used the formula of Chief Minister Bhajan Lal to make everyone happy before uniting non-Jat voters for Congress party.
Journey from Advocate to becoming a political icon
Senior Congress leader Subhash Batra has been a former Congress MLA from Rohtak. He was also the Home Minister in the Bhajan Lal government of 1991. Batra, recalling the old days, says that before 1991, Bhupinder Singh Hooda used to advocate in the district court of Rohtak.
Batra says that at that time, Hooda used to play cards in Rohtak’s Model Town area along with all his childhood friends (among whom his relatives were all non-Jats except Chander Sen Dahiya). This place was close to Hooda’s ancestral home. During this time there would also be political discussions over cups of tea.
This experience of Hooda was useful when he defeated Chaudhary Devi Lal in the election arena. Bhupinder Singh Hooda was the first choice of urban voters. Whereas the rural voters preferred Devi Lal.
Subhash Batra says that before 1991, Bhupinder Singh Hooda lost from the Kiloi assembly seat. Even his elder brother Captain Pratap Singh and father Ranbir Singh could not win the elections from their home region.
After continuously losing Congress ticket from Kiloi seat, there was a discussion in the political corridors that since Ranbir Singh has strong penetration in the Congress headquarters. For this reason, even after losing time and again, his family gets a ticket.
Hooda was ‘Bhupi’ for the people of Rohtak in the 1980s, as he was very polite. He used to drive his father Ranbir Singh from one place to another. Ranbir Singh was a minister in the United Punjab government. Apart from this, he also had access to the corridors of power in Delhi.
Recalling those days, Subhash Batra says, ‘Ranbir Singh introduced me to his son Bhupi the lawyer. Once Ranbir Singh took me in his Fiat car then Bhupinder Singh Hooda was driving the car and his father was sitting in the back seat. Then Ranbir Singh introduced me to Bhupi.
Batra says that Ranbir Singh used to say that his son Bhupi is very plain and straightforward. But if he is determined once, then it is very difficult to stop him.
Batra says, “I still see his father’s words coming true in Hooda’s case.” Because Hooda repeatedly gave tickets to many of his friends who could not win the election. Bhupi was willing to give up instead of cheating his friends. Because he is friends of friends and knows how to maintain relationships. ”
From loser to winner
It is a matter of time when Bhupi alias Bhupinder Singh Hooda was trying hard to reach the assembly from Kiloi seat. At that time, Hooda was not interested in the Lok Sabha elections. But, he was persuaded by his cousin ex- Minister Chaudhary Birendra Singh, who is now in BJP, to contest the Lok Sabha elections.
Chaudhary Birendra was the chairman of the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee at that time. At his behest, Bhupinder Singh Hooda agreed to contest the Lok Sabha election from Rohtak against Chaudhary Devi Lal.
This bold decision to take on the challenge against the powerful rebel leader Chaudhary Devi Lal changed the life of Bhupinder Hooda. In the election campaign, Hooda raked the issue of infamous 1990 Rohtak’s Meham incidents to remind people about the alleged atrocities of Devi Lal brand of politics.
There was another reason for Rohtak voters not to vote for Devi Lal. And that was that in 1989, Devi Lal contested from Sikar seat in Rajasthan besides Rohtak. After winning both seats, Devi Lal chose Sikar instead of Rohtak seat in Haryana and resigned from Rohtak.
At that time, people of Rohtak’s rural areas used to worship Devi Lal. But, he felt betrayed by this step of Devi Lal. At that time, Hooda had made a good mark in urban areas. Hooda fiercely took political advantage of people’s resentment from Devi Lal.
Like 1991, Bhupinder Hooda defeated Devi Lal in the 1996 and 1998 Lok Sabha elections. However, there was very little difference between the win-loss. But, defeating a strong and very popular leader like Devi Lal three times in a row, Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s image became that of a leader who could fulfill the old dream of Rohtak. And that dream was to rule Haryana.
In the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, Hooda was defeated by Captain Inder Singh of the Indian National Lok Dal. Captain Inder Singh said that only in 1991 Bhupinder Hooda’s victory over Devi Lal was real. Hooda defeated Devilal by only 2266 votes in 1996 and only 383 votes in 1998.
Captain Inder Singh alleged that Hooda got this victory from rigging.
Inder Singh alleged that the chief ministers of that time, first Bansi Lal and then Bhajanlal, used their power in favor of Hooda to defeat Devi Lal.
At that time, Bhajan Lal was the Chief Minister face of Haryana Congress and he had no idea that Bhupinder Singh Hooda would become a political threat to him and would beat him in his own political game.
After defeating Chaudhary Devi Lal three times in the Lok Sabha elections, Bhupinder Singh Hooda was so confident that he had now reached the position of challenging Bhajan Lal, who claimed to have a Ph.D in Haryana politics.
Now Bhupinder Hooda started loudly advocating Deswali Chaudhary to become the Chief Minister. Satish Tyagi, who wrote the book ‘Politics of Chaudhar’, says that Bhupinder Singh Hooda had mastered ‘drawing room politics’. Being a Member of Parliament, he also understood the Congress culture of Delhi very well.
Like the old Congress veterans, Bhupinder Singh Hooda used to stay up late in the night and meet people. In this way he had won the heart of close leaders of Gandhi family. Hooda used to tell the people of Rohtak that he would sit on the Chief Minister’s chair in Chandigarh through the Delhi route.
At the same time, Bhupinder Singh Hooda acquired the blessings of Sonia Gandhi with the help of leaders like Ahmed Patel and Motilal Vora.
When the Congress came to power by winning a majority of 67 seats in the 2005 assembly elections, most of the MLAs supported making Bhajan Lal the chief minister. Sonia Gandhi sent a team of observers from Delhi to Chandigarh. These observers talked to the MLAs and negotiated that this time the Chief Minister will decide the high command.
Tyagi says that then Sonia Gandhi’s confidant Janardan Dwivedi knew very well that most of the MLAs were in favor of making Bhajan Lal the Chief Minister. But, he got every MLA to personally write his choice for the post of Chief Minister on paper. And in the end, who will become CM, the MLA leaves this decision to Sonia Gandhi.
It was the cold morning of March 4. Bhajan Lal was standing at his residence in Delhi with his supporting MLAs and was waiting for Sonia Gandhi to announce his name for the post of CM.
But, by 4 o’clock in the evening, his dream was shattered. The name of Bhupinder Singh Hooda was announced that evening as the new CM of Haryana.
Now MLAs had no choice but to accept Hooda as CM. When it became clear to him that Hooda was the choice of Sonia Gandhi, the MLA slowly moved from Bhajan Lal’s residence.
Rise of Deepender Singh Hooda
The celebration of Bhupinder Hooda becoming the Chief Minister was celebrated with great pomp throughout Rohtak. Grand victory processions were taken out on the streets. The people of Kiloi assembly constituency had become crazy.
After becoming the Chief Minister, Bhupinder Hooda called back his son Deepender Hooda from abroad. At that time Deepender was working in America.
Deepender was given a ticket from Rohtak Lok Sabha seat. Having father as the Chief Minister of the state, Deepender Singh Hooda won by a record margin in the Lok Sabha election.
As Bhupinder Hooda entered the corridors of power, the two popular populists Raghubir Kadian and Anand Singh became the right and left hands of Dangi Hooda.
Leading Congress leaders like Haryana’s Chaudhary Birendra Singh, Kumari Selja,Business tycoon OP Jindal, who had supported Hooda in becoming the Chief Minister, were gradually cornered or had to leave the party due to Hooda’s opposition.
Hooda did the first thing that he started to meet the ground workers directly. Earlier, these workers had to seek the help of legislators to reach the Chief Minister.
It got Bhupinder Hooda to become a popular public figure in the old Rohtak.
Now in every rally and every meeting, slogans of Hooda’s name were started being raised. The result was that leaders like Vinod Sharma, who were once part of Hooda’s kitchen cabinet, were also left behind.
Similarly, Ahir leader of Congress, Rao Inderjit Singh and Bangar leader Birendra Singh, who once supported Hooda, joined BJP before the 2014 elections by accusing them of discrimination with Congress.
Even though the old Congress leaders were leaving the party. However, here Hooda had created a new army of his loyal MLAs and he used to ensure that his trusted MLAs get tickets from Rohtak area.
During this time, support from non-Jat communities to Hooda began to decline. There were two reasons for this. These non-Jat leaders felt that they were discriminated against in comparison to Jat leaders. Then, when the development of other parts of Haryana was compared to the old Rohtak, discrimination was clearly visible in that too.
Ultimately, the situation became such that the Congress lost the Rohtak assembly seat in 2014.
A senior Congress leader close to Hooda told the media that the mob’s mobilization in support of Bhupinder Hooda was now being diverted towards Deepender Hooda as a political strategy.
He says that, “When people used to place their requests to Bhupinder Hooda to do development work, he would not pay much attention to it.” At the same time, Deepender Hooda not only listened to the applications of the people, but used to get their work done. Deepender displayed a very polite nature and comfort to people.
Soon, young and inexperienced Deepender was being called as Bhai Sahab or MP Saheb even by senior Congress leaders much senior to him and of his father’s age.
Pawan Bansal, a senior journalist and author of a book called ‘Lalo Ke Sabrang Kisse of Haryana’, says that before Bhupinder Hooda, the experience of people with the chief ministers or their family members was not sweet but Deepender’s humility and down-to-earth approach made him a popular face.
How did BJP defeat Hooda in his stronghold?
In 2014, the BJP defeated the Congress by taking advantage of the rise of Modi at the Center and regional discrimination in Haryana. But, instead of celebrating this victory, the party continued its efforts to take advantage of the non-Jat’s resentment.
Its first example was seen when the BJP gave the command of Haryana to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh thinker and non-Jat leader Manohar Lal Khattar.
This raised hope among the non-Jat people of Haryana who are feeling discriminated and envious of the dominating caste.
One reason for this was that people did not know much about Manohar Lal and there was nothing personal against him to cringe and he also had direct access to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The interesting thing is that this formula of social engineering of BJP and Manohar Lal has never failed in Haryana. Because since 2014, BJP has not lost any election in Haryana.
First, the BJP did a clean sweep in the civic elections. After this, in 2019, the party won all the Lok Sabha seats of Haryana. Bhupinder Hooda and his son Deepender Hooda also lost elections from their respective strongholds, Rohtak and Sonipat. Then, it went on winning Jind By-election and managed to get 40 seats and formed an alliance government with Jannayak Janta Party in 2019.
Hooda dominance challenged
Satish Tyagi, author of the book ‘Politics of Chaudhar’, says that despite being a strong Jat leader, the Congress high command was no longer giving Hooda any preference. Ashok Tanwar’s entry as the Haryana Pradesh Congress President split the Haryana Congress. Internal fighting intensified in the party.
When the BJP was strengthening its base and vote bank in Haryana, the Congress was divided into several factions. Hooda, Tanwar, Surjewala and Kiran were all close to the Gandhi family.
The 2016 Jat reservation movement in which the Rohtak was the epicenter and more than 30 people were killed during this got several injured created hurdles for Hooda and his supporters base started dwindling.
The people of Rohtak, especially the residents of the urban areas, felt that Hooda and his sons did not stand with them at the time of his crises.
They were not ready to forgive Bhupinder Hooda and his MP son Deepender for failing their faith. Hooda stayed in Delhi during the entire Jat movement.
An FIR was lodged against Hooda’s political adviser Professor Virender Singh after a video clip of inciting people for the Jat movement went viral. This also gave the BJP an opportunity to question Hooda’s role.
Accusations kept flying from Congress and BJP on who scripted violence in 2016 reservation issue
Asha Hooda, wife of Bhupinder Hooda, told the media that they had left for Rohtak as soon as the violent situation in Rohtak was reported. But, the government stopped them on the border of Haryana and Delhi Delhi and did not allow them to enter the state. Asha says that the Hooda family regrets that they were not in Rohtak at that difficult time. However, his family was helpless.
Angry voters from Hooda took their anger out on the Congress in the local body elections. After this, Deepender Hooda lost the election from Rohtak Lok Sabha seat in 2019 to BJP candidate Arvind Sharma.
Brahmin leader Arvind Sharma is an old friend of Hooda. He was included in the party by the BJP with the intention of defeating Deepender.
One effect of the Jat reservation movement was that non-Jat voters became more and more strongly in favor of the BJP. The result of this is that the gap of BJP’s victory has increased much earlier.
Hooda’s legal issues
After the formation of the BJP government at the Center and the State, four FIRs have been registered against Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
However, Hooda has rubbished all the allegations against him and dubbed it an attempt to silence his violence by the BJP regime. The current Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has said this many times from the public platform that Bhupinder Singh Hooda will be behind bars.
In January 2018, the CBI started a preliminary inquiry against him. This investigation was ordered by the Supreme Court on 1 November 2017. The case was related to the Hooda government’s decision to acquire 1417 acres of land in Gurugram. Because out of this, only 87 acres of land was finally taken over by the government.
The land that was acquired was illegally abandoned, it extends from sectors 58 to 63 and 67 of Gurugram. According to preliminary investigation, Hooda and his government officials had left the land illegally after the acquisition.
It is also alleged by the investigating agency that the license builders for the development of these lands were obtained illegally with the help of Hooda government. The Haryana Police had also registered an FIR against Hooda and Robert Vadra for illegal work in land deals.
Bhupinder Singh Hooda was also questioned by the Enforcement Directorate. This case was related to another land deal, about which the ED had registered a case. In this case, Hooda’s statement was recorded under PMLA i.e. Prevention of Money Laundering Act. In fact, this case is related to illegal allocation and illegal money laundering of plot of C-17 in Sector 6 of Panchkula by the Hooda Government to Associate Journal Limited, the parent company of National Herald newspaper.
The Financial Investigation Agency Enforcement Directorate has alleged that Hooda brought benefits to ALJ, which was unlawful. The ED alleges that the Hooda government extended the time to ALJ to complete the construction work from May 2008 to May 2012. And finally gave the Associate Journal Limited time till 2014 to complete the construction work.
It is said about Bhupinder Singh Hooda that luck shines on him in crisis time as he had become chief minister in 2005 when he was not seen as front runner of the seat during elections.
Party under him managed to win 31 seats in the 2019 elections and he became Leader of Opposition. Once talking to the media, Hooda said that he had become Chief Minister by sitting in opposition in 20005 before and now he is once again in opposition and God may bless him with the opportunity to hold the post to serve the public.
Division in Devi Lal brand politics is certainly going to be counted in his favour