Chandigarh: The battle between the two claimants to former deputy prime minister Chaudhary Devi Lal’s legacy in Haryana — the Abhay Singh Chautala-led Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and his nephew Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) — appears to be getting more intense ahead of elections next year.
Abhay Singh Chautala is the son of former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, who is Devi Lal’s son. Dushyant is the son of Om Prakash Chautala’s other son Ajay.
With the INLD reduced to one seat in the assembly while the JJP won 10 on its debut in 2019, the former has been at pains to recapture the the legacy of the party, founded by Devi Lal. The JJP is an ally in the BJP-led Haryana government.
On Wednesday, Abhay moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court to challenge his suspension from the House, which followed a showdown in the assembly with Dushyant and Speaker Gian Chand Gupta.
The verbal duel between Abhay and Dushyant began during the Zero Hour Tuesday, Day 2 of the state’s ongoing budget session.
Abhay — the INLD’s lone MLA, representing Ellenabad — accused Haryana Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala of corruption in the assembly He ended up uttering some unparliamentary words which were later expunged.
Abhay alleged the land mafia in Hisar enjoys the patronage of his nephew, who is also the state’s civil aviation minister. The Haryana government has committed Rs 945 crore out of its budget for FY 2022-23 for the construction of an airport in Hisar.
He accused the Haryana government of accommodating the interests of land mafia by changing the route of a road connecting the airport with some nearby villages. This, he added, led to unrest among villagers.
Calling for a thorough probe into his charges, Abhay Chautala alleged that villagers had been protesting outside the under-construction airport for over a month but the government was not paying heed to their concerns.
Land mafia, he said, bought land from farmers and is fooling them by claiming an international airport will come up there. “The fact is that no international airport is coming up at Hisar, but people are being fooled,” he said.
Dushyant Chautala countered the allegations, saying the government can probe the charges but a privilege motion should be brought against Abhay if they turn out to be false. Abhay, however, continued to accuse his nephew of being “complicit” with the land mafia in Hisar.
The INLD leader also locked horns with Gupta for not taking up his calling attention motion seeking the status of action taken on the report of a special enquiry team (SET) set up in 2020 to probe an alleged liquor scam.
His calling attention motion was admitted, but not taken up on the grounds that the minister concerned — the home minister — was not present on the floor of the House at the time.
The Speaker eventually suspended Abhay from the proceedings of the House for two days.
Speaking to ThePrint Tuesday, he said the speaker was shielding Dushyant Chautala — who also holds the revenue and excise portfolios — by refusing to take up his calling attention motion even after it was duly admitted.
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Chautala factor: Rise of JJP & fall of INLD
The feud between the Chautalas is a long-standing one. It took a fresh turn in 2014 when Dushyant won the Hisar Lok Sabha seat and his supporters began to project him as the future chief minister of Haryana. He was the youngest MP ever at the time.
At the time, Abhay was leading the INLD. The family patriarch, five-time chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Singh Chautala — Abhay’s elder brother — were serving time for their involvement in a teachers’ recruitment scam.
Ajay Singh Chautala was released from Tihar jail in February last year, while Om Prakash Chautala was sentenced to another four years rigorous imprisonment in May after a Delhi court found him guilty in a disproportionate assets case. However, senior Chautala’s sentence was suspended by the Delhi HC in August 2022.
In 2018, the feud over Devi Lal’s legacy culminated in the suspension of Dushyant and his younger brother Digvijay from the INLD. The reason given was “indiscipline” at a rally organised by the party on 25 September that year to celebrate the former deputy PM’s birth anniversary.
At the rally, Dushyant’s supporters raised slogans demanding that the party nominate him as its chief ministerial face.
Dushyant went on to launch his own political party on 9 December 2018. Although the JJP drew a blank in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it won 10 seats in the assembly polls in October that year and used the opportunity to enter into a post-poll alliance with the BJP, which had failed to secure a clear majority in the 90-member House.
Dushyant was made deputy chief minister and allocated 11 portfolios, including revenue and disaster management, excise and taxation, industry and development and panchayat.
Abhay Singh Chautala, in a bid to revive the INLD’s voter base, has announced his plan to embark on a 4,200-km padyatra across Haryana starting from Punhana in Mewat on 24 February.
The ‘Parivartan Yatra’ will culminate on 25 September in Kurukshetra where INLD plans to hold a massive celebration to mark the birth anniversary of Chaudhary Devi Lal.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)
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