Life has come a full circle for Ajay Chautala, who was elected president of the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) on Monday, almost seven years after he was sentenced for ten years imprisonment in 2013 in connection with the teachers’ recruitment case.
He attended the meeting of the JJP’s national executive which was held in the presence of his elder son, Dushyant Chautala, who is the Deputy Chief Minister in Haryana’s BJP-JJP government. JJP leaders said Ajay is out of Delhi’s Tihar jail for the past around three months because of the coronavirus pandemic like a large number of other prisoners.
The party that he now heads was formed by his sons – Dushyant and Digvijay – in December 2018 after a bitter infighting in the Chautala family. At the time of the party’s formation, Digvijay was named as party president, while Ajay was named as patron of the party to complete the paperwork. Now for the first time the party has elected its president by convening a meeting of its newly formed national executive.
Ajay has seen surprising ups and downs in his political career. He, along with his father Om Prakash Chautala, was convicted for irregularities in the teachers’ selection in January 2013. But four years before it in 2009, there was huge demand from a section of the Indian National Lok Dal that the party should contest the election under the leadership of Ajay Chautala in place of his father Om Prakash Chautala, a former Chief Minister.
A former party functionary says the party had then received bags full of such letters in which party men had given many suggestions to improve the performance of the INLD. “In large number of such letters, there was demand to give prominence to Ajay in the party before the polls,” said the former INLD functionary who did not wish to be quoted. However, the INLD had contested the 2009 Assembly polls under the leadership of Om Prakash Chautala and the party’s impressive performance had surprised many because then the Congress-led by Bhupinder Singh Hooda had to take help of Independent MLAs to form the government despite indications of better performance of Congress before the polls.
Till the 2013 verdict of a Delhi court against Chautalas in the teachers’ recruitment case, Ajay was second-in-command in the INLD after his father Om Prakash Chautala. By the time, he was already elected to the Rajasthan Assembly two times apart from representing Haryana Assembly and Lok Sabha each once. He had been a member of the Rajya Sabha too.
“He is the only leader, who has been a member of Rajasthan Assembly, Haryana Assembly, Lok Sabh and Rajya Sabha,” says Randhir Singh, secretary of the JJP state office. In fact, Chautalas have enjoyed a significant influence in neighbouring Rajasthan since the days of Chaudhary Devi Lal, a former Deputy Prime Minister who was even elected to the Lok Sabha from Sikar parliamentary constituency of Rajasthan in 1989.
When Ajay and Om Prakash Chautala went to jail in 2013, Abhay Chautala had almost taken command of the Indian National Lok Dal to mobilise support for the party in tough times. Ajay’s wife, Naina Chautala, and his both sons — Dushyant and Digvijay – had also become active in the party. Dushyant became the youngest parliamentarian when he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Hisar constituency of Haryana in 2014. Just a few months later, Naina was also elected to the state Assembly.
But when infighting in Chautala family intensified in late 2018, Ajay and Dushyant both were expelled from the INLD. Ajay was General Secretary of the party that time. Ajay was blamed for anti-party activities while his supporters claim that the action against him was unwarranted as he was in the jail when hooting had taken place at a party rally in Gohana (Sonipat) in 2018.
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