With former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala back in Delhi's Tihar prison following his surrender on court's order on Saturday evening, a no-holds-barred verbal fight has broken out between the ruling Congress and his Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).
Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Sunday unleashed verbal barbs at the jailed INLD chief.
Taking on Chautala over his remarks that he (Chautala) would take oath as the next chief minister in Tihar Jail, Hooda said: "How can this man dream of becoming the chief minister when he is not even eligible under law to contest the election for a legislator?"
"He is only trying to fool people," Hooda told a political rally here Sunday.
"If he wants to fulfil his wish to be the chief minister again, I suggest that he should hold an election among prisoners in the (Tihar) jail. He can also form his cabinet in jail and run his government," he said, mocking Chautala.
"There is something called rule of law. He (Chautala) has been convicted in the (teachers') recruitment scam and that is why he is in jail. The law prohibits him from contesting any election. He cannot even become a legislator, let alone becoming chief minister," Hooda pointed out.
Chautala, 79, was convicted by a Central Bureau of Investigation court in Delhi January last year along with 54 others, including his legislator son Ajay Chautala, for large-scale irregularities and corruption in recruitment of teachers.
The Haryana government, headed by Chautala in 1999-2000, recruited over 3,200 teachers. However, the final selection lists were tampered with and new names were added to the lists.
The INLD leadership, in its political rallies Sunday, tried to project an image that Chautala was jailed as he had given jobs to youth.
But Hooda attacked their claims.
"These are all lies by Chautala. If he has got 10 years' imprisonment for giving 3,200 jobs, then I should be hanged for giving over 50,000 jobs. Chautala was convicted and jailed because of irregularities and bribery in recruitment," Hooda said.
Chautala was forced to surrender Saturday after the Delhi High Court, which had cancelled his bail last month, advanced the surrender date from Oct 17.
The former chief minister availed bail on "health grounds" but started openly campaigning for INLD candidates for Wednesday's (Oct 15) elections to the Haryana assembly. The high court, on a plea of the CBI, held that Chautala clearly violated bail conditions by addressing political rallies.
The INLD, which was lagging behind the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party in its campaign, got a boost with Chautala addressing several rallies in the past fortnight. The turnout at the Chautala rallies made the ruling Congress and the BJP wary.