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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 4, New Delhi, January 9, 2021

Obituary: Chandrawati - Many firsts to her Credit but She remained a Simple Politician (1928-2020)

Saturday 9 January 2021

by Sher Singh Sangwan *

Chandrawati, the first women Legislator, the first women Minister in the state, first women Leader of Opposition and first member Parliament from Haryana breathed her last on 15 November 2020 in PGIMS Rohtak at the age of 92. Moreover, she was a daughter of Kisan and Jawan family from the most backward area of Haryana.

She was born in village Dalawas of Tehsil/District Charkhi Dadri of Haryana. She was born in a simple family of Hazari Ram, a havaldar in army and mother Dhaula Bai, a housewife from village Ghardana Kalan in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan. The simplicity of the family is reflected from, first, her varied dates of birth (5 and 8 January and September 3 of the year 1928). Second, she was married in childhood along with her elder sister but she was not sent to her in-laws due to her tender age. After a few years, the boy with whom her marriage was solemnized died and thereafter, she never married and fully involved in politics with her little practice as a lawyer.

She got her primary education from the village school set up by Birla Education Trust. Once, Nihal Singh Takshak, an Education Inspector with Birla Education Trust and social activist visited the school and he inspired her to study at Pilani. She was admitted in 6th class in Birla School Pilani in 1943. Her father died in 1944 at the age of 57 when she was getting school education at Pilani. Her mother had already died in 1932 when she was just four years. But her elder brother Summer Singh a primary school teacher supported her and they lived there in a thatched hut. She completed her Matric in 1948 from Birla Balika Vidyapeeth, Pilani. After that Ghanshyam Das Birla offered her free education at Pilani with the condition that she will later teach for three years in Birla Institutes Pilani. But she wanted to become a doctor rather than a teacher so took admission in Maharani College, Jaipur in Science faculty and completed Intermediate. She later changed to Arts faculty and did graduation from Sangrur (Punjab) in 1953. She was fully supported by her brothers in education. Later on, she completed her LLB from Delhi University after joining politics.

She entered in Politics, at the age of 26 when she was picked up as a congress candidate first time in 1954 due to her education in the backward area of Badhra area in the old Mahendragarh district, part of Pepsu State and she won it. She was again elected member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Badhra in 1962, 1972 and 1982 and in 1968 and 1991 from Loharu. She was elected Member of Parliament (MP) from Bhiwani in 1977 defeating the mighty Bansi Lal. Overall, she fought 11 elections for MLA and won six times and she fought two times for MP and won once, defeating the mighty former CM Bansilal in 1977.

She was Parliamentary Secretary in Pepsu Government after 1954. She served as a Deputy Minister in 1964-66 in combined Punjab and as a State Minister in 1972-74 in Haryana. During her tenure in Assemblies, she worked in Estimate Committees initially as its member in Punjab and then its Chair-Person in Haryana. She was also Chair-Person of the Library Committee in Haryana. She was President of the ruling Haryana Janta Dal from 1974 to 1979. On election as MP in 1977 as a Janata Party Dal nominee, she remained the member of the Central Executive Committee of Janta Party in Lok Sabha and also a Member of the Public Undertaking Committee. Smt. Chandrawati worked as the leader of opposition in Haryana Assembly from 1982-85. She was also Chair-Person of Haryana Dairy Development Cooperative Federation till 2014.

She propagated for women education and their drudgeries like carrying water on head and grinding of flour by stone-grinders. But both were linked to electrification which could not happen till 1972. Badhra was made a block in her time and even an electric sub-station was set up at Badhra. She was simple politician obliging to people for personal grievances and readily accompanied them too in need. I also had chance to meet when Hardwari Lal, Vice-Chancellor of MDU Rohtak did not allow me to join despite selection as Assistant Professor by three Professors of DU. On seeing my merit, Chandrawati happily accompanied me by an ordinary government Bus to Rohtak and hotely argued my case but it was in vain in front of the obstinate politician VC. She boldly raised her grievances with Bansi Lal too. I remember in 1973 while sharing a stage with Babu Jajiwan Ram and Bansi Lal for the inauguration of Jui lift irrigation scheme, she spoke against Bansilal in the public meeting. Bansilal ordered for forcible removal of the mike and sacked her from Ministry too. Visionary works like college, Hospital and ITI in Charkhi Dadri, Jhoju or Badhra could not happen during her period.

She was not manipulative, cunning and a bootlicker to reach higher echelons of Politics. Her honesty, better personal dealing and service as an advocate kept her afloat in the active political career of about 50 years.

(Author: Dr Sher Singh Sangwan, Former Professor SBI Chair, Centre for Rural and Industrail Development, Chandigarh)

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