For a person who entered electoral politics only five years ago, Naina Chautala now holds considerable clout in Haryana politics. As she campaigns across state for Jannayak Janata Party, the party founded by her son and husband following a vertical split in the INLD, she tells The Indian Express why she changed her constituency, the status of women in Haryana and the prospects of her party. Excerpts:
You are often blamed for causing the split in the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in “putr moh”. Don’t you think that had the party been one unit, you would have had a strong chance of forming the government in Haryana?
It is wrong to say that I am responsible for causing a split in the INLD. In fact, we stayed in the party till very last. We never wanted to leave it and wanted to work in a cordial manner. We were expelled from the INLD. But at this juncture, I don’t want to talk about the past. Our party (JJP) is now getting so much support from masses. Dushyant (her son and former Hisar MP) has formed the JJP with hopes of bringing a change in Haryana and I am sure that he will do that.
You had a comfortable win from Dabwali in 2014. Why did you change your constituency this time?
It was done on public demand. Badhra, the Assembly constituency from where I am contesting now, falls in Bhiwani-Mahedragarh parliamentary constituency from where my husband Ajay Chautala had won. Hence people of this area have close affinity with us, Ajayji had done so much work in the area. He had served people here, hence on public demand, I came to this area.
Last time, you contested on INLD ticket and your campaign was led by SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal. This time again SAD is with INLD. Is this affecting your party’s prospects in the state?
Yes, last time Badal family had led the entire campaign and Bade Badal Sahib (Parkash Singh Badal) was there with me throughout the campaign. I was new to politics and I remember his support and guidance. I respect him a lot. It is his and his party’s decision to join hands with whichever party they want. However, our family ties will never sour. I have confidence that had I been in Dabwali this time, and had I asked for his help, Badal Sahib would have never said no to me. I respect his decisions and have no ill feelings for him or his party.
When did you enter politics? How has the journey been?
I was a homemaker till 2014, confined to my house with hardly any idea about electoral politics. Our family was active in politics, but I had never ever gone out seeking votes for my husband. I formally joined the INLD in 2014 and with people’s support became MLA from Dabwali. I started connecting with masses and especially the women as they were more comfortable talking with me. In 2014, I was confined to Dabwali, but now I am touring the whole state. In five years, I have learnt several lessons of politics. These five years also made me understand the difference between “apne” and “paraye”.
How do you see the role of women in politics?
I was a support system for my family till 2014, but now when I go out in the field and meet women. I realize that women must come out of their houses and play active role in shaping the society. I have met many educated girls in my door-to-door programme. Given wings to fly, they will do wonders. This time, 104 women are contesting polls in Haryana. In last assembly polls, 115 women had contested and 13 reached Assembly. Ghoongat pratha (veil) is still popular in the area as our elders feel that women should remain under veil. However, a change is happening gradually. My mother-in-law always had ghoongat, I never did. Likewise many women are giving up veil.
Tell us something about your Hari Chunari ki Chaupal programme.
I started the programme to connect with women. Through this programme, I had covered 58 constituencies where I interacted with women at Chaupals. We named it Hari Chunari based on the the colour of the INLD flag. The most common problem, which I came through these chaupals was that in many areas, women were still going to far off places to fetch water for daily needs. They carry matka (pitchers) on their heads. I want remove this matka and ensure water supply at their door steps. This also shows speaks a lot about the so called development in Haryana in the past 15 years. Women are also upset with unemployment and drugs issue as they are indirectly affected if anyone in the house is unemployed or is addicted. In Dushyant’s rule, we will work on all these issues and I am sure he will provide security to women and will live up to the expectations of his grandfather Jananayak Chaudhary Devi Lal.
How secure are women in Haryana?
There is no safety for women in Haryana. Every day, I read about rape, domestic violence cases… Our party will work to educate women on their rights and ensure security for them.
How tough is the competition for you this time?
JJP is getting enough support of masses. The youth are with us. Though we are a new party, but I feel we are the only ones giving a tough competition to the BJP at all the seats. Public support is tremendous.