One would have often heard of famous saas-bahu rivalries that are part of household tales. But ever heard of a sasur-bahu rivalry? Well, this is what seems to be unfolding in this dusty Sikh-dominated assembly constituency but with a lot of maan maryada and restraint.
With sitting INLD MLA, Ajay Singh Chautala, the elder son of INLD chief, Om Prakash Chautala being debarred from contesting elections following his sentencing in the JBT teachers’ recruitment scam, the onus of wresting the home turf has fallen on Ajay’s wife, Naina Chautala (47), a political greenhorn. Her rival is none other than Ajay’s uncle (chacha), Dr Kamal Veer Singh (67) of the Congress, thus Naina’s father-in-law.
Dignity matters more
But both the rivals agree on one thing — they would never indulge in personal attacks on each other and maintain the dignity of the relationship. “The fact remains that I am the daughter-in-law and he is my father-in-law. I will never cross the line and personally criticise him. We are one family but with a different political outlook. My attack will always be issue based and on the Congress,” says Naina.
Her rival and father-in-law Dr KV Singh also has similar views. “It would have been easier for me to criticise Ajay Chautala. Par ab mere samne ek beti hai. So I have to restrict myself. My focus is on emphasising the two ideologies — one of the family rule and one of development,” he says.
Ray of hope
Dr Singh who is son of Ganpat Ram, a brother of former deputy prime minister Chaudhary Devi Lal, has his roots also in Chautala village. But KV, as he is fondly called, prefers to call himself a Sihag, the gotra of the Devi Lal clan, than a Chautala.
Ajay and chacha, Dr KV Singh crossed swords in Dabwali in 2009 assembly elections and the nephew emerged victorious by over 12,000 votes. However, circumstances have taken a turn since then. Ajay’s sentencing and hence his inability to contest polls seems to have provided just the window Dr KV Singh was looking for. He is emboldened by the fact that in the recent Lok Sabha polls, Congress candidate Ashok Tanwar trailed from Dabwali by just 1,985 votes.
The Congress leader who has the unique distinction of having worked as officer on special duty with two CMs — Devi Lal and Bhupinder Singh Hooda — is contesting his fourth assembly election. Having lost the previous three, two from Darba Kalan and one from Dabwali, he is keen to make it count this time. “It is now or never. That’s what the people of Dabwali tell me,” says a politically suave Dr Singh.
The Congress candidate cries foul alleging that Ajay Singh was covertly campaigning for his wife. “He visits villages at night and does door-to-door campaigning. This is a clear violation of the terms and conditions of interim bail granted to him on medical grounds. I want the CBI and the high court to take note of this,” says Dr Singh.
During his one-on-one interaction with villagers, he asks them to overthrow the hegemony of the Chautala family in the area. “The family wants to control the political power all the time. It is either Ajay or Abhay or Dushyant and now they have fielded Naina. Why did they not field Dr Sita Ram,” he tells a gathering of Sikhs in Chormar village. The Congress candidate also reminds Sikh voters on how the Hooda government has empowered them by forming a separate Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee.
Learning the ropes
At first glance, Ajay Singh’s wife Naina Chautala looks every bit a homemaker and is rather demure and reticent during her campaigning. But the rookie politician whose previous electoral experience was an inconsequential class representative election in school is backed up by a team of seasoned campaigners and seems to be learning the ropes quickly. “I was nervous initially. But I think the nerves have calmed down by now,” says the INLD first-timer as her black Porsche sports utility vehicle leaves for Salam Khera village.
Accompanied by a dozen-odd women, including several old college mates from Delhi, Chandigarh and Mohali, Naina is also trying to work on the Congress loyalists and try to make them switch over. “Tharo bahut bahut dhanywad,” she thanks a family in Banwala who has declared support for her. She freely intermingles with the women, exchanging pleasantries and ties INLD wrist bands.
“Social service is in my nature and I try doing my bit. But I had never thought of active politics. I always remained absorbed in taking care of my household. It is purely because of circumstances that I am here. If my husband was here, he would have contested this election,” she says.
So, does she often get help and guidance from her MP son, Dushyant Chautala. “He in fact has guided me a lot though he is yet to campaign for me in Dabwali. Dushyant often tells me there is an internal contest between me and him — Dabwali versus Uchana. Let’s see who polls more votes,” she smiles.
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