Renuka Bishnoi wife of three-time legislator Kuldeep Bishnoi addressing a small gathering in her husband's constituency. (Photo: Facebook/@Bishnoi.Renuka)
Behind most successful male politicians in Haryana, particularly if they belong to the Chautala, Bishnoi and Hooda clans that have dominated the political scape, is a mother, wife or daughter-in-law working hard at canvassing for votes to ensure the family legacy is intact. In a state, infamous for its skewed sex ratio and patriarchal attitudes to women, this dedicated tribe of campaigners has plunged into the heat and dust of electoral politics ahead of the elections on May 12.
The women, some of them MLAs, may not be at the centrestage in this Lok Sabha election but have been quietly working behind the scenes to ensure their sons, husbands and fathers-in-law are voted to power.
For Renuka Bishnoi, politics runs through the generations. She is a Congress MLA from Hansi but has multiple identities in a largely male dominated political space -- daughter-in-law of former chief minister Bhajan Lal, wife of three-time legislator Kuldeep Bishnoi and mother of Bhavya Bishnoi, who makes his electoral debut as the Congress' Lok Sabha candidate from Hisar.
"I don't just go with him for canvassing. I meet people on my own to cover as much area as possible. I can freely meet and interact with women voters and ask them to make an informed decision," Renuka Bishnoi told PTI.
Naina Chautala, the first woman from the Chautala clan to take to politics, is campaigning for her sons Dushyant Chautala and Digvijay Chautala, who are contesting from Hisar and Sonepat, respectively. They parted ways with the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) following a family feud and formed the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP).
Naina Chautala, whose husband Ajay Chautala and father-in-law Om Prakash Chautala are currently in jail in connection with a teacher recruitment scam, believes family background helps but work matters more.
"We come from an influential political family. Yes, there has been a feud and we now have different ideologies but voters make their choice on the basis of work done in their areas," said Naina Chautala, who has addressed over 50 rallies in the state so far.
Then there is Asha Hooda, wife of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and mother of Deepender Hooda. While her husband is the Congress' candidate from Sonepat, her son is the party's contestant in Rohtak.
And Asha Hooda is juggling between Sonepat and Rohtak, seeking votes for both the men in her family. Actively helping her in the field is daughter-in-law Shweta Hooda, who accompanies her during the campaigning.
In an interesting departure from the son-husband syndrome, Congress' Tosham MLA Kiran Chaudhary, daughter-in-law of former chief minister Bansi Lal, is campaigning in the Bhiwani-Mahendragarh Lok Sabha constituency for her daughter Shruti. The former MP is contesting again as a Congress candidate.
Other women who are campaign managers for their husbands include Reeta Sharma, wife of Rohtak BJP candidate Arvind Sharma, Anju Bhatia, wife of Karnal BJP candidate Sanjay Bhatia, and Avantika Maken, wife of Congress' Ashok Tanwar, who is contesting from Sirsa.
Prem Lata, MLA from the Uchana Kalan Vidhan Sabha constituency, is campaigning for her son Brijendra Singh, who is making his electoral debut as BJP candidate from Hisar. The son of veteran Jat leader and Union Minister Birender Singh has quit his two-decade old bureaucratic career to contest the elections.