The principal opposition party in Haryana, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) is fighting a lonely battle in the Lok Sabha elections this time. With its top leaders — former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay — in jail since last year for a scam in recruitment of junior basic teachers (JBT), circumstances could not have been worse for the INLD, which remains without a partner as its old ally BJP has refused to tie up this time.
Led by OP Chautala’s younger son Abhay now, the party may be putting up a brave face; but history and even the current trend shows that the INLD stands to lose due to not being in alliance with the saffron party.
An INLD-BJP government was in place from 1999 to 2004, but since then the Congress has been strong. In the 2009 LS polls, though, the parties could not win a single seat despite being in alliance. They contested separately in the assembly elections later that year and lost again.
In fact, since the demise of Chautala clan patriarch Devi Lal in April 2001, the INLD has not won even a single LS seat and lost two Vidhan Sabha elections.
Unfortunately for the INLD, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who is a longtime family friend of the Chautalas and leads Punjab’s ruling SADBJP alliance, could not succeed in getting the BJP to ditch Kuldeep Bishnoi’s HJC and build a “mega alliance” of opposition parties. Ironically, despite being in par tnership with the BJP for long, SAD president and Punjab deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal is campaigning for the Chautalas in Haryana.
The INLD on its part has announced unconditional support for BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi. This is seen by observers as a strategic move of the INLD to keep itself relevant in national elections, confuse people about the longevity of the BJP-HJC alliance, and also encash the ‘Modi wave’.
At the grassroots management level though, the INLD would miss the organisational and practical experience of party supremo OP Chautala. It is all the more challenging that the Vidhan Sabha polls are due soon after the LS battle. A loss now could erode the INLD’s support base for a long time, it is felt.
Jats and Jat Sikhs have been the backbone of the INLD, even though the Jats of the Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonepat and Bhiwani districts (‘Deswali belt’) have prefer red current CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and the Bansi Lal clan. The Congress CM’s role in getting a central quota for Jats under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) might just be the trump card for the ruling party. Yet, the Jats may again get divided among Bagri (for Chautala) and Deswali (Hooda), and make the fight even more interesting.
Despite the older Chautalas being in jail, the family remains in charge within the INLD. Abhay is taking all key decisions while Ashok Arora continues to be the state unit president. Ajay’s son Dushyant Chautala, and Ram Pal Majra are other key leaders.