Gurgaon’s flashy modernity is not, by a long stretch, Haryana’s only claim to fame. The city’s new name Gurugram harks back to its epic role as the land of the Mahabharat, where centuries ago three historical battles of Mahabharata were fought, in which Guru Dronacharya played a major part. Which reminds us that it is also the land of honour killings, khap panchayats and a skewed sex ratio. Paradoxically, it is also the birthplace of Sakshi Malik, whose achievements in Rio might just tilt the gender balance. And does anyone need reminding that cricketers Kapil Dev and Mansur Ali Khan of Pataudi hail from Haryana?
Haryana is celebrating its golden jubilee by organising year-long celebrations, to be formally launched by Prime Minister Narender Modi on 1 November at a function at Gurugram. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has already launched golden jubilee logo at a function held at Kingdom of Dreams in the city. A replica of Gita Sandesh by Lord Krishna to Arjun is highlight of the logo, whose tagline reads: “Transforming Haryana — Progressing Haryana.” The function had a tinge of controversy with state Health Minister Anil Vij, a nodal person for the celebrations, abstaining. The choice of venue was also questionable, as its owners are facing an enquiry for not paying government dues.
Haryana came into existence as independent state on 1 November 1966 when it was carved out of Punjab. Devi Lal who went on to become India’s deputy prime minister, had led an agitation for creation of a separate state. As the chief minister was invariably from Punjab area of the undivided state, the Haryana part was being neglected in matters of development and employment. On the other hand, the Akali Dal of Punjab was demanding a separate state called Punjabi Suba. Bowing to their pressure, that included a fast-unto-death, the state was bifurcated on linguistic lines and thus Haryana came into existence. Chandigarh is the joint capital of both the states.
The people of Haryana played a stellar role in the freedom struggle. Contrary to general belief that the 1857 revolt against British rule started in Meerut, army jawans had staged a rebellion in Ambala which was crushed with iron hands. To keep the memory of its heroes alive, the state government is planning a national-level memorial which will have portraits of Rani Laxmi Bai, Tantya Tope and those who attained martyrdom in the first war of independence. Way back in 1922, Pt Shriram Sharma, veteran freedom fighter, had unfurled the tricolour at Jhajjar town hall. He was tortured by British police, tied to the back of a jeep and dragged through the streets. He was also stuffed in a bag of chillies, resulting in serious skin diseases. Hem Chander, a local businessman, used to supply gunpowder to the army of Sher Shah Suri, once king of Delhi.
Soon after Haryana’s creation, its politicians developed the knack of hitting headlines. Its political Lals – Bansi Lal, Devi Lal and Bhajan Lal – made history for different reasons. Bansi Lal, known as the builder of modern Haryana, was a member of the caucus around then prime minister Indira Gandhi during Emergency (1975-77). Devi Lal created history by uniting all national Opposition parties and becoming deputy prime minister in the Janata Dal government under the leadership of VP Singh in 1989. And Bhajan Lal started the whole concept of ‘Aya Ram, Gaya Ram’ when he defected with his entire Janata Party to join the Congress after the party’s defeat in the 1980 Lok Sabha mid-term polls.
Earlier, Bhajan Lal had toppled the central government headed by Devi Lal by keeping his party legislators under virtual house arrest at late BJP MP Vijayaraje Scindia’s Gwalior palace.
Later he played significant role in managing support of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Members of Parliament in support of the PV Narasimha Rao-led minority government.
Together, the Haryanavi Lals played a decisive role in the ouster of prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi, Chandra Shekhar, VP Singh and Morarji Desai from power. During the tenure of the present chief minister, Manohar Lal, the state witnessed its worst violence during agitation by Jats for demand of reservation in jobs, witnessing the death of 30 persons and burning of property worth crores, looting of weapons from police stations and stoppage of water supply to Delhi. The Punjab and Haryana High Court described the situation as worse than Partition days.
No wonder, Haryana acquired a certain notoriety for inventing political tricks like floor crossing, Bharat Darshan (whisking legislators away to prevent them from defecting), nepotism and favouritism.
The state, known for political reforms like anti-defection law, has also made significant progress in the field of education and health
Not only New Delhi, the state of Haryana too suffered political instability because of these new tactics. The first elected Congress chief minister of the state Bhagwat Dayal Sharma found his government toppled by Rao Birender Singh and his supporters by engineering defections and bringing no-confidence motions against the government. The first two years of its existence were full of political instability, with two legislators Gaya Lal and Hira Nand Arya changingparties half a dozen times in a single day — they were the original Aya Ram, Gaya Ram. In the 1968 Assembly elections, the Congress had a majority. But since Bhagwat Dayal Sharma was close to Morarji Desai, Indira Gandhi was opposed to his installation as chief minister. He was asked to name someone else. Bansi Lal assured Sharma that he would be loyal to him but ignored him after he joined Indira Gandhi’s caucus.
Haryana is credited with forcing many reforms in political life, starting with the anti-defection law. For instance, after the Meham Assembly byelection was countermanded in 1990 due to the murder of independent candidate Amir Singh, it was decided that in future elections will be countermanded only in case of murder or death of candidates of recognised political parties. (In the Meham byelection, then chief minister Om Parkash Chautala was contesting against Panchyat-supported candidate Anand Singh Danghi).
The tradition of inviting the leader of the single largest party to form the government also started from Haryana. In the 1982 Assembly election, the pre-poll alliance of Lok Dal led by Devi Lal and BJP had a total tally of 38 seats. The Lok Dal won 32 seats, while the Congress won as many as 36 seats. Devi Lal took along some independent legislators to take the figure to 46, enough for staking claim for chief ministership in the 90-member House. They met then governor GD Tapase to stake their claim. Tapase asked him to come after two days to give him time to verify the support of independent legislators.
In the meantime, there was hectic horse trading and Bhajan Lal succeeded in pulling the right
strings. While Devi Lal was waiting, Tapase called Bhajan Lal and swore him in as chief minister on the ground that he was leader of the single largest party. Bhajan Lal was asked to prove his majority on the floor of the House, which he did by engineering defections. This led to resentment in the Lok Dal to such an extent that Joginder Singh, staunch supporter of Devi Lal, blackened Tapase’s face at a function held at Faridabad.
Despite its politicians’ antics, the state has made significant development in the field of education, health, transport and electricity. Gurugram is known as Millennium City and hosts the headquarters of a large number of multinational companies. Sixty percent area of the state falls under National Capital Region, and the area around Delhi is well connected with road, rail, metro and shuttle services. Completion of work on Kundli-Manesar-Palwal expressway spanning seven districts of the state will ensure smooth connectivity of districts of northern Haryana with Gurugram and Faridabad.