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As Covid wanes, fresh push by Chautalas to woo farmers in Haryana

Om Prakash Chautala-led INLD has planned to celebrate Chaudhary Devi Lal’s Jayanti.

Indian National Lok Dal president Om Prakash Chautala in Chandigarh. (Photo: Jasbir Malhi)

In Haryana, there is a silent race between the Chautalas to connect with their core vote bank — farmers.

While former Chief Minister of the state, Om Prakash Chautala, has decided to woo the farming community for his party, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), by visiting various dharna sites, his grandson Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala has taken up organisational activities of his party, the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) — a coalition partner of the ruling BJP in the state.

Top leaders of JJP, including Dushyant Chautala and his father Ajay Singh Chautala, who is president of the party, held a meeting in Panchkula on Thursday where they decided to launch a month-long membership drive from August 15. Before it, the foundation day of JJP’s student wing, INSO, will be celebrated in Rohtak on August 5. After the meeting, Ajay Singh said: “We have taken suggestions from the office-bearers on how to celebrate Chaudhary Devi Lal’s Jayanti, which is on September 25. Keeping in view the ongoing pandemic, we will take a call later regarding the venue and the way to celebrate it.”

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On the other hand, Om Prakash Chautala-led INLD, too, has planned to celebrate Chaudhary Devi Lal’s Jayanti. “I will go to every state before September 25 to contact the Leaders of the Opposition there and to seek an alternative to the BJP at the national level. We will announce a Third Front on September 25 itself,” Chautala had stated recently.

Less than a month after his release from Tihar jail, Chautala has already visited four dharna sites of farmers at Delhi borders, apart from visiting four toll plazas, where protesters are camping for the past seven months to express their dissent against three contentious farm laws passed by the Parliament in September last year. By these visits, Chautala has tried to emerge as a staunch supporter of agitator farmers. His father, Devi Lal, too enjoyed the support of farmers during his long political career. However, the INLD could win just one seat in the 2019 Assembly polls after a split in the party, with the JJP bagging ten seats in the Assembly. Farmers have remained as the core support group for both the parties — the INLD and the JJP.

After the release of Om Prakash Chautala, the INLD has been trying to consolidate its position again in state politics, especially among farmers. Chautala’s son, Abhay Singh Chautala, who looked after the organisational activities when his father was in jail, had resigned from the Assembly in support of the protesting farmer when no other legislator could do the same. After his resignation, there will be a by-election for his Ellenabad constituency seat and the INLD hopes to get more support here from the masses, especially with Chautala back in their corner after his release.

On the other hand, being an ally of BJP, the JJP leaders have suffered the wrath of agitator farmers. Even Dushyant Chautala has not been able to hold any events in his constituency Uchana in the past several months in the face of protests by angry farmers. In these circumstances, Dushyant Chautala, recently held a meeting of JJP workers from Uchana at Panchkula. Despite stiff opposition from the agitators, the JJP leaders have largely avoided making any sharp comments against the ongoing farmers’ agitation so far. Ajay Singh Chautala said: “In a democracy, everyone has the right to express their points of view. But breaking the mirror of somebody’s vehicle and holding protests when someone goes for personal events is not only inappropriate but undemocratic too.”

Now, with the farmers’ agitation continuing with full steam and the number of Covid cases having seen a significant dip, the JJP is again trying to increase party activities, but with a lot of caution. Recently, Dushyant Chautala, who is JJP’s senior vice-president, had held a meeting with party leaders from Badhra and Dadri constituencies at the party office in Chandigarh.

Politically, if Om Prakash Chautala, who belongs to the Jat community, becomes stronger, he will not only eat the votes of the JJP, but that of the Congress also in the caste-centric politics of Haryana. In these circumstances, the BJP may hope to continue to be a significant player in Haryana politics despite facing a stiff opposition from farmers.

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