Not just Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan,Deputy Chief Ministers in Bihar, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh are all struggling to claim their political ground under the shadow of their chief ministers. But there is one who has outshone the CM of his state. Dushyant Chautala, the Deputy CM of Haryana has fulfilled his biggest and controversial election promise of giving 75 per cent reservation to Haryana natives in private sector jobs, and has successfully turned the Jat anger in Haryana into fawning admiration.
Dushyant Chautala made Jat pride his election issue. Today, he has brought back the memory of Kisan leader and his great-grandfather Chaudhary Devi Lal. He has also managed to keep his MLAs in his fold. And he has done all this without antagonising the BJP CM Manohar Lal Khattar. Many in Haryana talk of the example of equal partnership between the two.
Deputy CM post a bait?
Traditionally, the post of the Deputy CM is used as a bait to satisfy the dissenters within a party or coalition, and placate certain communities. The position is often perceived as a potential threat to a CM’s autonomy. In states where such dual power centres operate, a constant attempt at undermining each other’s position is always at play. We have seen this unfold recently in Rajasthan. The former Deputy CM Sachin Pilot was in tussle with CM Ashok Gehlot since day one, and it ended bitterly.
Maharashtra last year saw its one-day Deputy CM — Ajit Pawar. Pawar switched sides, was sworn in as CM Devendra Fadnavis’ deputy, and came back to the NCP before taking oath as CM Uddhav Thackeray’s junior.
In Madhya Pradesh too, there was a lot of talk around Jyotiraditya Scindia being made the deputy of then Chief Minister Kamal Nath, before the Gwalior dynast quit the Congress to join the BJP.
In Uttar Pradesh, to placate various communities, the central command of the BJP appointed two Deputy CMs after the 2017 assembly election — Dinesh Sharma and Keshav Prasad Maurya. Finding a ‘balanced’ political representation in a state where caste plays the most important factor in the equation of vote bank politics has always been an issue before the parties. After the alleged encounter of gangster Vikas Dubey, the resurgence of Brahmin representation has been making a noise in the state.
In Bihar, Deputy CM Sushil Modi, who is an OBC leader, has not been able to gain any political mileage despite occupying the chair for long. In fact, it is CM Nitish Kumar who has managed to remain the face of the NDA coalition for over a decade-and-a-half now.
But Haryana is a different game
The BJP has allegedly been a key player behind the political drama in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, or we can say that the party has been a beneficiary of the tussles between its opponents. But Haryana, is a different game. The BJP has not been able to lure the MLAs of Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janta Party (JJP). There is an equal partnership between Chautala and his senior in the government Manohar Lal Khattar. The JJP leader’s political maneuvering is quite interesting, especially considering his opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the October 2019 assembly election in Haryana.
Chautala learning the art of deal making
Dushyant Chautala’s JJP, which had won 10 seats in the 90-member Haryana assembly, has been given 11 portfolios in Khattar-led coalition government, including plum departments like revenue, disaster management, excise and taxation, industry, development and panchayats, food and civil supplies, PWD, labour and employment, and civil aviation. JJP also holds archaeology and museums, and rehabilitation and consolidation portfolios.
Many of these departments have had a crucial role to play during the lockdown period and the ongoing health emergency. This has ensured that the Deputy CM is more visible than the CM himself. In his attempt to revive the nostalgia for Devi Lal, Chautala has done Facebook lives and made video calls to the farmers in the fields.
In the cabinet meetings, Chautala stands out with his ideas, says a BJP leader from Haryana, adding that the young leader has successfully made sure that the CM relies on him, considering the differences between state health minister Anil Vij and Khattar.
Chautala, who also holds the food and civil supplies portfolio, has been swift at outfoxing the opposition too with timely policy announcements. The opposition could not get much time to corner the state government on the farmers’ issue as the Khattar-Chautala dispensation was quick to announce the opening of 2,000 wheat procurement centres.
Turning Jat anger in to admiration
In the run up to the Haryana assembly election in 2019, there was a lot of talk about 35 castes against one major caste — the Jats. The BJP was cornered for repeating its choice of a non-Jat CM in Manohar Lal Khattar who is a Punjabi.
Riding on this popular sentiment against the BJP among the Jat community, Dushyant Chautala campaigned strongly against Khattar and played up the Jat pride. But when Chautala joined hands with the BJP the Jats felt betrayed by the young dynast. However, with the job reservation announcement, Chautala has not only reversed the damage done to his image, but is also being perceived as a smart politician who is fast learning the political deal making.
Chautala has turned the Jat anger into admiration in no time and is quickly making his mark as an able administrator before the public. Many Local Jat leaders told ThePrint that Chautala has been successful in conveying the message that the Jats have a share in the power position in Haryana.
Political experts had predicted that soon after the formation of the government, the BJP will indulge in horse trading and Dushyant will be left to fight another battle. But what’s unfolding in Haryana holds a lesson for the likes of Sachin Pilot and Sushil Modi — how to punch above your weight.
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