The Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) has begun a drive to expand its base across the state with an eye on playing a more prominent role in the state’s politics.
The party said it inducted 4.5 lakh members in a month-long membership drive that concluded on Wednesday. Its cadre strength was approximately 45,000 in December when it announced plans to add 10 lakh members by the end of 2022.
“The membership drive was carried out across Haryana from March 13 till April 13,” Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala told The Indian Express. “We had kept a target of approximately 4.5 lakh new members — 5,000 new members in each of the 90 Assembly constituencies in Haryana. In a few constituencies, including in Uchana, we got 26,000 new members, followed by 25,000 in Uklana, 15,000 in Bhadra, 40,000 in Bhiwani district, and 35,000 in Faridabad district. A few district presidents of our party have suggested extending the membership drive for a few more days so that more people can be inducted. I have recently reviewed the membership drive and discussed measures on how to take our party forward and how to assign responsibilities to new members who have joined us.”
Sources said that in 2019 the party’s alliance with the BJP was a last-minute development after the party surprised everyone by winning 10 seats in its debut election and the Manohar Lal Khattar government underperformed by bagging 40 constituencies.
JJP insiders said Dushyant, who derives his political strength from his family’s legacy, is bracing for difficult seat-sharing talks for the next Assembly elections and might even contest all 90 seats alone. That is where the party’s expansion plans fit in.
Dushyant’s father and JJP national convener Ajay Chautala, who recently completed his sentence in the JBT teachers recruitment scam, is touring across the state while the deputy chief minister’s younger brother Digvijay Chautala is leading efforts to expand the support base of the student’s wing of the party, the Indian National Students Organisation (INSO).
With the Congress bogged down with infighting, the JJP is also looking to make inroads into Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s stronghold of Rohtak and its neighbouring areas.
Although the coalition government has functioned without any major hiccups, there has been an undercurrent of disquiet since the farmers’ agitation against three central farm laws — repealed late last year — began. Last year, at least six JJP MLAs tried to push the Haryana government to intercede for the protesting farmers at the Centre. JJP legislators such as Ram Kumar Gautam (Narnaund) and Devender Babli (Tohana) even called on the party at internal forums to leave the BJP-led government. Babli even said in the state Assembly how MLAs of the ruling coalition were being boycotted in their constituencies over the farmers’ protests. The JJP legislator added that “the social and political boycott of MLAs had emerged as a major problem for them”.
Despite criticism from within the party, Dushyant managed to negate the pressure to leave the government and kept the party in line. However, he did not canvass for the BJP during the Punjab Assembly elections two months ago.
Asked about the JJP’s expansion, state BJP leader Sanjay Ahuja claimed it was a “positive development”. He added, “At present, the BJP and the JJP are alliance partners in Haryana. If the JJP strengthens its organisation and our alliance continues, then it will be beneficial for the BJP too. The BJP has already expanded its organisation to become the world’s largest political party. Every political outfit has the right to expand its organisation.”
Meanwhile, to minimise farmers’ wrath, the JJP began district-level meetings last year soon after the three central farm laws were officially repealed. They also stepped out the outreach with Ajay Chautala’s statewide tour. The party has claimed that the state government has fulfilled more than 40 per cent of its poll promises, including compensation to farmers for 19 crops under the Bhavantar Bharpai Yojana, 75 per cent reservation for the youth in the private sector and 50 per cent reservation for women in Panchayati Raj institutions.