Dushyant Chautala was all of 11 when his great grandfather Ch Devi Dal, former deputy prime minister, two-time chief minister of Haryana and arguably the tallest Jat leader from the state, passed away.
The family says 6’4” Dushyant gets his height from his great grandfather. At Umarvas village in Sirsa, Preetam Chahar, a farmer, says, “In their family, it’s in Dushyant that our elders see the (chhavi) image of Devi Lal.”
Dushyant says he learnt the importance of education from him. A boarder at Sanawar in Himachal Pradesh, Dushyant remembers coming back on vacation to just one question from his great grandfather: “How much have you learnt?”
Dushyant went on to do a degree in business management from California State University followed by law from National Law University.
The Indian Express first encountered him on the poll trail of his grandfather Om Prakash Chautala in 2004. Dressed in a white kurta-pyjama the chubby youth, who was treated to tall glasses of milk village after village, listened keenly to his grandfather spewing venom at Congress.
It was Chautala who expelled him from the party after a raucous crowd started chanting pro-Dushyant slogans at a rally in Devi Lal’s memory in November 2018 and refused to heed him.
The expulsion came four years after Dushyant became the youngest MP in the Lok Sabha at the age of 26 in 2014. He achieved this feat, which earned him a place in the Limca Book of Records, by defeating another dynast, Kuldeep Bishnoi, a son of former CM Bhajan Lal from Hisar.
With his father Ajay Chautala in jail in the JBT teacher recruitment scam, Dushyant began dividing his time between the countryside of Haryana and Delhi, where he created ripples by driving his tractor to Parliament. He also chose to drive a tractor to the voting booth on October 21.
He also distinguished himself by taking part in two dozen debates, and tabling two Bills in the first year itself. He also clocked an attendance of 89 per cent. Friends say he was appalled at the number of absentee MPs.
Younger brother Digvijay, whom he had fielded from Jind in the January bypolls, jokingly calls him a buddha (old man). The reason? his favourite hero is Dharmendra (for never losing touch with his roots despite his stardom) and yeh dosti ham nahin chodenge (from Sholay) is his all-time favourite song. Meet the core team of Dushyant Chautala
While in Parliament, Dushyant also began taking a keen interest in INSO, a student body of INLD, floated by his father. In the student politics of the state capital Chandigarh, he came to be known as the kingmaker, and a king, who was generous with the students and commanded their loyalty.
Fluent in both Haryanvi and English, he is at home with villagers in their rustic lingo and setting. “He doesn’t behave like a politician, he is very calm and gentle. And he has a knack of connecting with everyone regardless of their age,” says Gourav Duhan from INSO, who contested from Panjab University this year.
After founding Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) on December 9, 2018, Dushyant cobbled together a team that comprised INLD veterans such as Nishaan Singh, 63, who is often seen by his side, and youngsters like Nitin Sehrawat, 30, an engineer who handles the social media for the party.
Dr Varinder Sandhu, 36, member of JJP election manifesto committee, says they respect the young leader for his grip on the issues at the grassroots. “Despite his hectic campaign, he made it a point to spend the night in his village.”
It hasn’t been a smooth sailing for the new entrant. The symbol of chappal that they got before getting the key, was received with sniggers. Addressing a rally in the runup to the Lok Sabha polls, Chief Minister M L Khattar said greet people who come seeking votes in the name of a chappal with a garland of chappals.
His uncle Abhay Chautala, when asked about JJP, feigned ignorance and then quipped: “I have only heard about chappa.”
While the student base helped to get him young members, finding candidates was not easy. Four of the winning candidates joined him in October after being denied tickets.
Throughout the campaign, Dushyant has not shied away from questions on his father’s indictment in a corruption case. “He is innocent… there is no proof against him, we will fight it out,” is his standard response.
Insiders say he also encouraged his mother to enter politics. Naina Singh Chautala made her poll debut from Dabwali assembly seat in the same year as him, and has been instrumental in wooing women with her movement “Hari chunari ki chaupal.”
Dushyant’s wife Meghna Singh, daughter of an IPS officer, has also been silently supporting her mother-in-law.
Akali Dal patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, known for his closeness to late Devi Lal, is said to have tried to heal the family feud. But Dushyant has, however, remained unmoved, saying, “We should unite the entire family,” in an oblique reference to the fissures among his three uncles.
Yesterday, he said 56 per cent of people who voted for him are youth. “I will work for their aspirations.”
Most of them had voted for change and his promise of jobs. A few days before the polls Sukhvinder Singh, a youngster at Karnal, who raged at the BJP government for the spiralling joblessness, had said, “Dushyant is different, he will teach BJP a lesson.”