Chaudhary Bansi Lal (August 26, 1927 – March 28, 2006) was an Indian freedom fighter, senior Congress leader, former Chief Minister of Haryana and considered by many to be the architect of modern Haryana. He was born in Golagarh village in Bhiwani district of Haryana. He served three separate terms as Chief Minister of Haryana: 1968-75, 1985-87, and 1996-99. Bansi Lal was considered a close confidante of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency era in 1975. He served as the Defence Minister from December 1975 to March 1977, and had a brief stint as a Minister Without Portfolio in the Union government in 1975. He also held the Railways and Transport portfolios. Lal was elected to the State Assembly seven times, the first time in 1967. He set up Haryana Vikas Party after parting ways with the Indian National Congress in 1996. Bansi Lal studied at the Punjab University Law College, Jalandhar. In 1972, the Kurukshetra University and the Haryana Agricultural University awarded him honorary degrees of Doctor of Law and Doctor of Science respectively.
As a freedom fighter, He was secretary of Parja mandal in the Loharu State, from 1943 to 1944. Lal was president of the Bar Association, Bhiwani from 1957 to 1958. He was president of District Congress Committee, Hissar, from 1959 to 1962 and later became member of Congress Working Committee and Congress Parliamentary Board. He was a member of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee between 1958 and 1962. He was also the chairman of the Committee of Parliament and Committee on Public Undertakings, 1980-82, and the Committee on Estimates, 1982-84.
He became railways minister on December 31, 1984 and later minister for transport.
He was a Rajya Sabha member from 1960 to 1966 and 1976 to 1980. He was a Lok Sabha member — 1980 to 1984, 1985 to 1986 and 1989 to 1991. After he parted company with Congress in 1996, Bansi Lal set up Haryana Vikas Party and his campaign against prohibition propelled him to power in the assembly polls the same year.
Bansi Lal became the Chief Minister of Haryana four times in 1968, 1972, 1986 and 1996. He was the third chief minister of Haryana after Bhagwat Dayal Sharma and Rao Birender Singh. He became Haryana chief minister for the first time on May 31, 1968 and remained in office till March 13, 1972. On March 14, 1972, he occupied the top post in the state for the second time and was in office till November 30, 1975. The third and fourth times he was appointed chief minister was from June 5, 1986 to June 19, 1987 and May 11, 1996 to July 23, 1999.
Bansi Lal was elected to the state assembly seven times, the first time being in 1967. After Haryana was formed in 1966, much of the state’s industrial and agricultural development, especially creation of infrastructure, took place due to Lal’s initiatives. He was elected to the state assembly for seven times in 1967, 1968, 1972, 1986, 1991 and 2000. He was responsible for electrifying all villages in Haryana during his tenure as chief minister in the late sixties and seventies. He was also the pioneer of highway tourism in the state – a model later adopted by a number of states. He is regarded by many as an “Iron man” who was always close to reality and took keen interest in the uplift of the community.
Bansi Lal did not contest the assembly elections in 2005 but his sons Surendra Singh and Ranbir Singh Mahendra were elected to the state assembly. Surendra Singh died in a helicopter crash near Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh in 2005.
Bansi Lal was in the limelight when Emergency was imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975. He was a confidante of Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi during the controversial Emergency days in 1975. He along with Sanjay Gandhi was said to be responsible for various steps during the Emergency, including a plan to cut off power supply to newspaper establishments and close down courts.
He was the defence minister from December 21, 1975 to March 24, 1977 and a minister without portfolio in the Union government from December 1, 1975 to December 20, 1975.
Bansi Lal visited a number of countries, including Myanmar, Afghanistan, erstwhile USSR, Mauritius, Tanzania, Zambia, Seychelles, United Kingdom, Kuwait, Greece, West Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France and Italy.
Bansi Lal died in New Delhi on 28 March 2006. He had been unwell for quite some time.