A feud within the Chautala political family of Haryana has become public, with present patriarch Om Prakash Chautala suspending two of his grandsons from his party, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). A look at various generations in the family:
The family, which traces its roots to Rajasthan, is based in Chautala village of Sirsa, Haryana. The INLD is Haryana’s main Opposition; it was founded by Devi Lal, O P Chautala’s father. Devi Lal, who was in the Congress until 1971, served twice as Haryana Chief Minister, beginning 1977 (Janata Party) and 1987 (Lok Dal), and then as Deputy Prime Minister, starting 1989. Devi Lal had a large rural base, as does Chautala, his eldest son, who has been CM thrice.
The family today
Chautala is the INLD national president. He and his elder son, Ajay Singh, are currently serving a 10-year jail sentence after being convicted of corruption in the Junior Basic Training (JBT) teachers’ recruitment scam. From jail, they continue to take key decisions for the party; another power centre is Chautala’s younger son, Abhay Singh.
Ajay Singh Chautala’s wife, Naina, is an MLA. They have two sons. The elder, Dushyant Chautala, is Lok Sabha MP from Hisar while the younger, Digvijay Singh, heads the INLD’s youth wing. These are the two grandsons whom O P Chautala has suspended.
Abhay Singh, Ajay’s brother, is Leader of Opposition in Haryana, and secretary general of the INLD state unit. Abhay too has two sons: Karan, who is vice chairman of Sirsa Zila Parishad and vice chairman of Indian Olympic Association; and Arjun, who looks after family affairs and farmland in Sirsa district.
Abhay’s wife, Kanta Chautala, had contested Zila Parishad elections in 2016 and lost to Aditya Devi Lal — who too belongs to the family; he is a son of one of O P Chautala’s three brothers. Aditya and his brother Anirudh are in the BJP.
The infighting is seen as being primarily between Abhay and his nephew Dushyant. At an INLD rally in Sonepat district on October 7, with O P Chautala on stage having got two weeks’ parole, a section of the crowd booed Abhay during his address. Consequently, Chautala suspended Dushyant and Digvijay from the party and disbanded the Indian National Students’ Organisation (INSO), the INLD student wing headed by Digvijay. The grandson, however, refused to acknowledge the decision and said only his father Ajay Singh is authorised to take action in INSO matters.
The INLD had asked Dushyant and Digvijay for their version on the alleged indiscipline; Dushyant wrote back on October 17 seeking 15 days. Dushyant has started holding public meetings across Haryana, and has demanded to know the grounds on which they were being accused of indiscipline.
Abhay Singh has denied any differences with his nephews: “They are our children.”
What it means for 2019
The INLD polled 24% in the 2014 Assembly elections and won 18 seats in the 90-member House, while its ally SAD won one. O P Chautala has the party mandate to select candidates for 2019, and it remains to be seen whether he entertains sitting MP Dushyant’s wish to recontest from Hisar, or Digvijay’s wish to contest the Assembly polls. Abhay, meanwhile, is said to be hoping to field both his sons in the Assembly polls.
With O P Chautala and Ajay Singh in jail, it is unclear who will be the party’s chief ministerial candidate. They were convicted in 2013; under the Representation of the People Act, a conviction of corruption charges debars one from contesting for six years. “It’s clear that Chautalaji cannot contest the polls. But there are grey areas whether he can become the Chief Minister. As per the Constitution, a person can remain chief minister for six months even if he is not elected to the Assembly,” said INLD secretary general R S Chaudhary.