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1 MLA in kitty, 2 yr to polls, can INLD survive another jail stint for Chautala Sr?

Last in power 17 years ago, the INLD has been sliding since Om Prakash Chautala lost power in 2005. Now 87, Chautala had won MLA election seven times and served as CM four times – between 1989 and 2005, for varying durations.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh |
May 21, 2022 9:01:35 pm
INLD supremo Om Prakash Chautala. (Express Archives)

The conviction of its supremo Om Prakash Chautala in a fresh case is set to punch another hole the already sinking ship of the Indian National Lok Dal in Haryana, which currently has a lone MLA in the 90-member Assembly, in his son Abhay Chautala.

Last in power 17 years ago, the INLD has been sliding since Chautala lost power in 2005. Now 87, Chautala had won MLA election seven times and served as CM four times – between 1989 and 2005, for varying durations. However, once he was out of power, and the Congress government led by Bhupinder Singh Hooda lodged multiple criminal cases against Chautala, and his sons Ajay and Abhay, he never recovered.

In 2009, the INLD had 31 seats and was the main Opposition party in Haryana, with Chautala the Leader of the Opposition. In 2013, he and younger son Ajay, besides 53 others, were convicted on charges of corruption and sent to jail. By the time of the next Assembly results, in 2014, the INLD tally had slipped to 19, with the BJP storming into power to form its first government in the state with 47 seats. With Chautala in jail, Abhay became the Leader of the Opposition.

With the patriarch out of the picture, the political ambitions of Ajay and Abhay drove the INLD apart. Eventually, Ajay split and formed the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP).

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Come 2019 assembly polls, the INLD could win only the Ellanabad seat, from where Abhay contested. In contrast, the JJP won an impressive 10 seats in its debut Assembly polls, and went on to align with the BJP to help it return to power. Ajay’s son Dushyant not just became the Deputy CM but also holds vital portfolios such as Excise and Revenue.

In contrast, the absence of Chautala for 10 long years kept bleeding the INLD. He and son Abhay tried to rally the troops – with the senior’s recorded message even played at rallies – but the party’s revival proved tough. Chautala’s release has not made a difference.

Now comes the latest conviction, in a disproportionate assets case.

And, this is not the only case the INLD is facing. There is a separate disproportionate assets case against Abhay too, where a verdict may come soon. If Abhay too is convicted, the Chautala-family INLD might find itself headless.

The Chautalas form one of Haryana’s most prominent political dynasties, with Om Prakash the son of Devi Lal, the formidable Jat leader who served briefly as deputy prime minister of the country.

A big chunk of the Jat vote is now seen to be with the JJP, apart from the BJP. Haryana’s other big Jat leader, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, has been constrained by his own party, though he recently emerged on top after another round of Congress shake-up.

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The CBI’s contention is that Abhay owned assets worth over five times his income of Rs 22.89 crore as per income tax records during the 2000-2005 period. It claims to have found Rs 119.69 crore worth of assets in his name.

Incidentally, Ajay too faces a disproportionate assets case. In his case, the CBI alleged assets exceeding his legal income by 339.27%, between May 1993 and 2006 – worth Rs 27.7 crore, against his legal income of Rs 8.17 crore.

 

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