There are two main candidates from the Bhiwani Lok Sabha constituency—Bansi Lal and Ms Chandrawati. Chandrawati was an old Congress leader from Dadri in Bhiwani district. She was a child widow with an enormous grip and gumption. She had been a Congress MLA from Bhiwani district and had aspired to be Minister but Bansi Lal did not like her and did not include her in his cabinet. She had been sulking. She had now got on to the Janta bandwagon against him.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came to address a mammoth public meeting at Bhiwani in support of defence Minister Bansi Lal. Bansi Lal was leaving no stone unturned to secure the people’s nomination and was quite sure of getting it. After all, what he had done for them, no other leader in history had ever done.
He had changed the face of the state, especially Bhiwani district, and put Haryana in the vanguard of progressive state. In his comparison, Chandrawati was a non-entity. He was touring every village, holding public meetings at important places. Devi Lal and other leaders of the combined opposition, who had been jailed during the emergency, were storming the constituency, canvassing for Chandrawati, tailing Bansi Lal, painting him as the principal conspirator of the Emergency rule.
I have been never able to judge which way—wind was blowing in the few elections where I had acted as the returning officer or an observer. In Bhiwani too, though the opposition leaders were drawing huge crowds, so was Bansi Lal and it did not appear to me that he would lose.
The entire election went off peacefully. I made a round of the district on the polling day. There were large queues at the polling booths; an air of festivity prevailed with Haryanvi women turning up in their colourful, knitted dresses, and there was a kind of expectant rush, the ballot boxes had to be transported to the SDM headquarters that night. I got calls from all of them after midnight that all boxes had been securely lodged in strong rooms; heaving a sigh of relief I retired to bed. The counting was to be done after two days.
In the evening the next day, I made the courtesy call on Bansi Lal at his home. Hundreds of people had assembled at the house and were sprawling on the lawns. He met in his usual cordial manner, offered me tea and as I was taking his leave he quipped, ‘Varmaji aap to Chandrawati ko certificate de dena’—you give the certificate to Chandrawati. He elaborated then that he had made his calculations based on reports from all villages in the entire constituency and that Chandrawati was winning by about one and half lakh votes that night he left for Delhi.
Counting of Votes
The counting of votes was to be taken next morning by the SDMs, who were assistant returning officers. There was no electronic voting those days; physical count of over half a million votes had to be done, which was time consuming. By the evening, reports had started trickling in that Bansi Lal was trailing. My job as the returning officer, in the meanwhile, was to count the postal ballot papers which had been received by my office.
Chandrawati was sitting at the table with me, tense and sullen; no one representing Bansi Lal was present. When these votes were being counted, my orderly came in and said Chaudhary Devi Lal was at the gate and wanted to come in. I told him to say that we were counting votes and nobody other than the candidates or their agents could be present at that time.
The counting was finished at about 7 pm and I left for my house. According to the latest reports from SDMs-a substantial portion of votes was yet to be counted and the results were not expected to reach my office before 11 pm. At about 10 pm, Hardwari Lal, a former state minister who was the main election agent of Chandrawati, came to my house accompanied by others. He was a cantankerous character and asked me why I was hiding in my house and not sitting in my office. He added in the same breath: “A large number of people were waiting outside your office. Everyone is saying that you are going to announce from your house that Bansi Lal had won.” I smiled and told him I was sitting for the results to be received from the SDMs. “How can I announce the results before that?”. “You come and sit in your courtroom”, he said. “Don’t you worry”, I told him, I am coming there shortly.
Soon thereafter I drove to my courtroom. Thousands of people had gathered around it. Around midnight all the results were received. It just took a few minutes to tabulate them. Chandrawati had polled over three lakh votes, about 1, 65,000 votes more than Bansi Lal. What struck me as amazing was that this was exactly what Bansi Lal had told me two days back—that Chandrwati was winning by over one and a half lakh votes. Chandrawati was sitting in front of me with her Hardwari Lal. I stood up and said my heartiest congratulations to Behanji and handed her the certificate. As she received it, I spied just a little softening of her severe visage.
The election results were stunning; it was the Janata Party all the way. Indira Gandhi and all her cabinet colleagues were thrown in the dustbin. Moraji Desai becomes the new Prime Minister-Atal Bihari Vajapayee-the foreign Minister and Ch. Charan Singh-the Home Minister.
Note: The text is an excerpt taken from the popular book –“THREE LALS OF HARYANA”-BY RAM VARMA.