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Eyeing INLD revival via a mega ‘third front’ show, Chautala goes all out for Devi Lal Samman rally

The INLD has been out of power in Haryana since 2005 when it was defeated by the Congress that formed the government under Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s leadership.

chautala, haryana, nitish kumarThe Indian National Lok Dal supremo and former Haryana chief minister, Om Prakash Chautala (centre) with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar (left). (Twitter/ANI)

The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) supremo and former Haryana chief minister, Om Prakash Chautala, has returned to the spotlight as he has been reaching out to his “old friends” in national politics in a bid to ensure the inclusion of his party in a larger Opposition coalition or a possible third front against the ruling BJP in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, which are due in April-May 2024. Haryana is also bound for Assembly polls in late 2024.

On September 6, Chautala met Bihar CM and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar in Gurgaon. On the same day, Nitish also met CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury in Delhi. On September 9, Chautala met Yechury as well as NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Delhi. Chautala has been inviting the leading faces of the Opposition camp for the INLD’s “Samman Diwas” rally to be held in Fatehabad on September 25 to mark the birth anniversary of former deputy prime minister and Chautala’s father, Devi Lal.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)’s patriarch and ex-Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal, who has family ties with the Chautala family, and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, the SAD chief, are also likely to attend the INLD’s mega rally.

After meeting Yechury, Nitish said, “It is time for the Left parties, Congress and all regional parties to come together to form a united Opposition.” The Bihar CM described his interaction with Chautala as a “courtesy meeting”.

Chautalas are however projecting such meetings as part of attempts to create a third front that, they believe, would take on the BJP effectively in the 2024 general elections.


Abhay Chautala, Chautala’s younger son and INLD MLA from Ellenabad, says, “There is tremendous enthusiasm among the people for the Samman Diwas rally. Wherever we have gone to invite people to participate in the rally to celebrate the 109th birth anniversary of Chaudhary Devi Lal, we have got tremendous response. Sharad Pawar, Nitish Kumar and several other political stalwarts including Meghalaya Governor Satyapal Malik, Prakash Singh Badal, Bihar’s deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, Hanuman Beniwal from Rajasthan and several others will be with us on the stage at the September 25 rally. Besides these, we have also sent invitations to leaders such as Uddhav Thackeray, HD Deve Gowda, Akhilesh Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu and several others.”

Abhay said, “When all such tall leaders will join hands on a stage, then the third front shall get constituted. The Congress also cannot be isolated from this third front, because when Chaudhary Devi Lal had formed a third front then he had taken even the BJP on board. The talks of forming a third front have been going on across the country and we are trying that a beginning in this regard should be made from Haryana,” adding that “Everybody is fed up with this BJP government. Whenever anybody tries to highlight any shortcomings of the BJP government, ED and CBI are used to silence such voices. We are not against the investigating agencies, but the agencies are being used to scare people.”

The INLD has been out of power in Haryana since 2005 when it was defeated by the Congress that formed the government under Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s leadership. Hooda continued as the CM when the Congress clinched the 2009 Assembly polls. However, in the 2014 polls, the BJP came to power with an absolute majority for the first time with Manohar Lal Khattar becoming the CM.

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In the 2009 polls, the INLD had won 31 seats out of Haryana’s total 90 and became the principal Opposition party. Chautala was then the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Assembly. The party slipped to 19 seats in the 2014 polls as against the BJP’s 47 and the incumbent Congress’s 15 seats. In Chautala’s absence (he was then in jail after being convicted in a teachers recruitment scam) Abhay became the LoP.

However, ahead of the 2019 Assembly polls, the INLD was split in the wake of infighting within the Chautala clan, which led to the emergence of the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) led by Chautala’s grandson Dushyant Chautala. In the 2019 polls, the INLD was routed with only Abhay managing to win the election from Ellanabad. He had later resigned from his seat in solidarity with farmers’ year-long agitation agitation against the now-repealed three contentious central farm laws. He however later contested the bypoll from the seat and again won.

The 87-year-old Jat leader and five-time CM, Chautala, who came out of prison last year on completion of his 10-year jail term, has been looking to help the INLD stage a comeback in Haryana politics through the Samman Diwas rally.

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The Haryana political fray has however got more crowded. The Delhi CM and AAP supremo, Arvind Kejriwal, recently launched his party’s campaign in Haryana, announcing the AAP’s plans to contest the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The AAP has been ruling Delhi and Punjab, which border Haryana.

The 2019 Haryana polls threw up a hung Assembly that forced the BJP to forge an alliance with the JJP to form the government, with Dushyant Chautala becoming deputy CM. While the JJP has been attempting to expand its base across the state, especially among the youth, the main Opposition, the Hooda-led Congress, is looking to oust the BJP-JJP from power by riding on the

perceived two-term “anti-incumbency” against the saffron party. The Congress however continues to be plagued with infighting and factionalism.

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In such a multi-cornered fray, the INLD patriarch Chautala, who has faced two convictions (a corruption case and a disproportionate assets case) has been going all out to ensure his party’s salience and revival in the state. The mega September 25 rally is clearly a key part of these attempts.

First published on: 10-09-2022 at 11:10 IST
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