The year was 1996 and former deputy prime minister Chaudhary Devi Lal was locked in a tough battle with Congress stalwart Bhupinder Singh Hooda for the Rohtak Lok Sabha seat. An eight-yearold boy was wandering in the streets of Rohtak and knocking at the doors of people, seeking votes for his great-grandfather.
Eighteen years later, in the Jat heartland of Haryana, Dushyant Chautala is knocking at doors again, this time seeking votes for himself as a candidate of the family’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). He is 26, and locked in a mighty battle with Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) president Kuldeep Bishnoi for the Hisar seat.
This alumnus of Lawrence School, Sanawar, at present enrolled for a course in business administration at California State University in the US, tells people that his age is “not of doing politics”. “At this age, boys enjoy their life. I have been forced to take to politics because of circumstances created by the Congress,” he tells people. His father Ajay Chautala and grandfather Om Prakash Chautala are in jail after being convicted for a scam in recruitment of junior basic teachers (JBT).
Dushyant tries the Chautala way, addressing people like a peasant leader, talking of the hailstorm that destroyed crops in the region. Sometimes, he tries to address people in the Jat style, banking on machismo. “Congressmen are cowards. Once you press the button next to the chashma (spectacles, the INLD symbol), hearts of both Congressmen [reference to Bishnoi, who was earlier with Congress, and the Congress candidate Sampat Singh] will get a shock,” he says. He tries to interact with men and women on the roads in Haryanvi. “Tayi, jota mardiyo is baar (Aunty, do your best efforts this time),” he tells an old woman with folded hands. People on the roadside promise to make him the youngest MP this time.
Some supporters see a reflection of Devi Lal. Ram Niwas, who drives the green Toyota Fortuner of Dushyant and has been associated with the family since 1991, earlier having worked as Devi Lal’s driver, says: “I have worked with all four generations of teh family. Dushyant is the only one in whom I see a reflection of Chaudhary Devi Lal.”
As we move on the campaign, a village leader and a young INLD leader from the area are in the backseat. As the car enters Hasangarh village in Uklana, Dushyant points towards a pond full of weeds. “Why don’t you clean it? A beautiful park can be developed here,” he suggests to the local village leader. With much sincerity, the leader replies, “There is so much greenery already around; the villages don’t need parks.
Moreover, the fear of people grabbing lands always looms large.” Both local leaders smile sheepishly. The smile has a clear message: Devi Lal’s reflection still has a lot to learn.