File Pic: Om Prakash Chautala
The Chautala family of Haryana has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The clan has split wide open and, as is the case with all political families, everyone from grandfather to grandson and nephews have indulged in public slander.
This isn't the first time, however, that a family feud has broken out within the Chautalas, arguably the most prominent family in Haryana politics.
Om Prakash's ascent to power
Devi Lal, the former Deputy Prime Minister of India, was the founder and patriarch of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), the party of the Chautalas. While the party name kept on changing until 1987, when INLD was fixed, Devi Lal remained the unquestioned leader and a Jat patriarch in Haryana.
Devi Lal was involved in the Quit India movement, and post-Independence, in organising farmers' agitation in the state. He also reportedly played an active role in the formation of Haryana state.
In 1988, a feud broke out between Devi Lal's sons, Om Prakash Chautala and Ranjit Singh. Singh was a minister in the state cabinet, being headed by Devi Lal, who was the Chief Minister then. Om Prakash was the chief of INLD.
The spark for the battle was when a bureaucrat in the state government accused the then home minister of Haryana, Sampath Singh, of corruption. The bureaucrat was close to Ranjit, while Sampath was close to Om Prakash.
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The allegations triggered alarm bells for Om Prakash, who figured that it was an attempt to weaken his position in the battle for succession of the Chautala legacy. A tug-of-war emerged, which led to Om Prakash being given the CM's post after Devi Lal assumed position as Deputy PM.
Ranjit Singh eventually left the party and the clan to join Congress, and is reportedly close to former Haryana CM and Congress veteran Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Om Prakash went on to repeat his term as the CM of Haryana, and is now serving a 10-year jail term along with one of his sons, Ajay Chautala, for involvement in the JBT teacher recruitment scam.
History repeats itself
The fact that Ajay is in jail along with Om Prakash, according to observers, provided Abhay, the younger son, the chance to plunge into politics.
This was reportedly unacceptable to Ajay, who wanted his son Dushyant Chautala to be the face of INLD, and thus the party's CM candidate for Haryana assembly elections, scheduled for later this year. Dushyant is the youngest Member of Parliament (MP) in the history of Lok Sabha, having been elected from Hisar in 2014 at 26.
Ajay reportedly feared that with Abhay at the helm, the latter would look after his own son, Karan Chautala, gearing up for his political plunge in the coming elections instead of the nephews.
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In November last year, the simmering feud within the party came out in the open. In a statement, Om Prakash stated that he had expelled Dushyant and his brother Digvijay from the party on charges of indiscipline and hooliganism. This was followed by Ajay, their father, being expelled for "anti-party" activities.
Ajay had likened the feud within his party with the Mahabharata, and had toured the entire state while on two-week parole to drum up support for his sons before he was expelled.
Dushyant launched the Jannanayak Janata Party (JJP) in December, and over six lakh people attended his first rally in Jind. The rally was considered to be one of the largest in Haryana's political history. The party contested the Jind bypoll, where it secured the second position, trumping even the Congress' Randeep Surjewala. Meanwhile, the INLD candidate lost his security deposit, signaling at least a moral victory for Dushyant.
Key figures of Chautala clan:
Devi Lal: The founder, patriarch and former Deputy Prime Minister.
Om Prakash Chautala: The man who succeeded Devi Lal and shaped INLD's success in Haryana. He is currently serving a jail term with son, Ajay.
Ajay Chautala: Om Prakash's elder son and an MP.
Abhay Chautala: Om Prakash's younger son and INLD's CM face. Under his watch, INLD's seats in Haryana assembly grew from nine in 2005 to 31 in 2010.Dushyant Chautala
: Ajay's son and the youngest Lok Sabha MP. He formed the JJP after being expelled from INLD, and will look to repeat his Jind bypoll performance in the assembly elections.