Everybody called Chaudhary Devi Lal Tau (elder uncle), and I think
he enjoyed being considered so. He regarded himself as the pater familias of the farming
community, especially the Jats who loved and revered him.
He had a lot of horse sense and considerable political savvy. It is
different that he pretended not to understand the pulls and
pressures of coalition politics and wanted things sorted out in his own
peculiar fashion, including a generous use of bluff and bluster.
He could be headstrong. Tau would often stick to his point of view and
refuse to budge even when coalition partners (like in the government
headed by myself) implored him to see reason. If he was angry with
somebody, he made it a point to give him a dressing down,
no matter how senior the politician was. Diplomacy wasn't his strong
Chaudhary Devi Lal was a good organiser. His word was command to his
reverential followers who would sweat and toil whenever their Tau exhorted
them to come forward and mobilise themselves for a particular cause.
His followers came to him (like at the massive kisan rallies in the late
eighties) in their
thousands and were intent on only listening to their beloved Tau.
He was grounded in old school politics, where you were either
right or wrong. But we later found that he could adapt to the compulsions
of modern-day manipulations and political trade-offs with an ease and
panache which is to be marvelled at. Tau let it be that known that
although he came from a different era, he understood the psyche of the
people, notably the farmers to whose cause he was so passionately
Not everybody agreed with him. But nobody could bully him or ride rough-shod over him.
He had phenomenal energy and even as recently as a couple of months ago,
this octogenarian was attending political meetings and
engagements, despite being supported by aides on either
side holding him up.
With Chaudhary Devi Lal's death, the country has lost not only a beloved
Jat leader and champion of farmers but an earthy person who did his
best to adapt to the changing times.
(Former prime minister Chandra Shekhar spoke to Tara Shankar Sahay)
Devi Lal is dead
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