Chandigarh: As the farmers’ agitation snowballs into a major political issue in Haryana, the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), sharing power with the BJP in the state, is faced with a fresh dilemma — its parent party, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), is looking to capitalise on the protests to regain lost ground.
The party has already got a glimpse of the troubles it is likely to face for continuing in the alliance. On Thursday, protesting farmers in Panipat waved black flags at JJP chief Ajay Chautala, when he arrived in the city to address party workers.
The farmers are demanding that his son, deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala, resign from the government in support of their agitation.
Addressing a press conference later in the day, a visibly upset Ajay lashed out at the farmers and opposition parties saying that if Dushyant’s resignation would lead to the revocation of the three central farms laws, he would do it. “But why should Dushyant resign? Did he sign the three laws?” he asked. Ajay was at pains to list out the various measures taken by his party in favour of farmers.
The JJP, a breakaway faction of the INLD, is primarily a party of Jat farmers with its core voter-base in rural agrarian belts. Farmer unions in Haryana have been vociferously objecting to the JJP sharing power with the BJP but Dushyant has decided not to resign, taking a calculated risk.
His close aides had earlier told ThePrint that even if the JJP loses its agrarian voters in wake of the farmers’ agitation, it will only be a fraction leftover from what would go to the INLD and the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress.
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INLD looking to capitalise on farmer anger
The INLD has been looking to cash in on the anger against the JJP.
INLD supremo Om Prakash Chautala, a five-time Haryana chief minister and Ajay’s father, had sided with his younger son Abhay when the two brothers fought over the supremacy of the party in 2018 leading to a vertical split.
But in the 2019 assembly elections, the JJP stunned political circles by securing 10 seats in the 90-member house, while the INLD ended up with just one — Abhay retaining his seat at Ellenabad. He has since resigned to protest the farm laws.
It is the older Om Prakash Chautala who is now taking the lead in reviving the INLD.
The 86-year-old Chautala, who was serving a ten-year sentence following his conviction in a recruitment scam, was finally released from jail in July and has embarked across the state.
He first looked to resurrect the party’s ties with farmers, now upset with the JJP. “I will first go and visit the protesting farmers,” Chautala had said in the first press conference he addressed following his release.
Then Chautala announced a “samman diwas” rally at Jind on 25 September to mark the birth anniversary of his father, former deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal.
National leaders in the opposition have been invited to participate in the rally to build a consensus on the creation of a third front. Closer home, the move is aimed at reclaiming the legacy of Devi Lal.
The 86-year-old has also been travelling across the state, addressing party workers and attempting to bring back those who had left to join the JJP. The latest of such meetings, called “karyakarta milan sammelan”, was held on September 12 at Charkhi Dadri.
JJP responds, but caught in a bind
Stuck in a situation where Dushyant can neither give up his post nor can order his flock to stay together, Ajay Chautala too began a whirlwind tour of the state to meet party workers in the first week of August, launching a constituency-wise membership campaign. It was announced that JJP will shortlist 500 committed and active workers in each constituency.
“As many as 45,000 workers of the JJP will be active and bring to the government the grievances of the general public,” he said following the Panipat meeting Thursday.
Ajay Chautala too has announced that JJP will celebrate Devi Lal’s birth anniversary in a big way but no rally has been planned.
Instead, JJP will pay homage to Devi Lal’s statues in various districts while a new statue would be unveiled in Mewat. “The tallest statue of Devi Lal is being installed in Mewat to commemorate the 108th birth anniversary,” Ajay Chautala said Thursday. “Every constituency will send 108 workers for this ceremony.”
Abhay Chautala is, however, not impressed. “First they (JJP) said that they will be holding a function in every district with thousands of workers. Now they have limited the number of workers to 108 per constituency. Is it because they have no workers left? The whole party will soon be limited to just 108 people,” Abhay told ThePrint.
But earlier this week Abhay and Dushyant’s younger brother Digvijay indulged in an ugly war of words over INLD’s preparations for the Jind rally. “Abhay has said that INLD’s Jind rally will lead to JJP reaching a hospital fighting for breath, but the fact is that INLD has put his own party on a ventilator because of his arrogance and ambition,” Digvijay said in a statement issued here on Tuesday.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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