Dushyant’s JJP dents INLD base, manages to strike chord with Jats
Around this time last year, his party was born. On Thursday, a new political star emerged in Haryana with Dushyant Chautala’s Jananayak Janta Party emerging as a potential kingmaker even as the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) got decimated in the first series of assembly elections after the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.
A scion of the Devi Lal family, who tried to cash in on his great grandfather’s legacy even in the name of the party (Devi Lal was called Jananayak by his loyal supporters), Chautala managed to catch the imagination of powerful Jat voters in this election, barely five months after the BJP swept the state, winning all 10 seats in the Lok Sabha elections.
Analysts have pointed out to factors such as the economic slowdown, agrarian distress, and plain old anti-incumbency for the performance of the BJP in these elections under Manohar Lal Khattar -- with 40 seats in the 90-member assembly, the party will still likely form the government. Meanwhile, Chautala, 31, who broke ranks with his uncle Abhay Chautala last year won 10 seats by taking away the lion’s share of the INLD’s vote bank.
A sports-lover, the foreign-educated Chautala has headed table tennis bodies apart from actively playing football, basketball and boxing. His party’s showing in its debut elections is already evoking comparisons with Assam’s Prafulla Mahanta or Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal, two other leaders —who caught popular imagination as debutants.
It was a deep family rivalry that saw the ouster of Chautala from the INLD. As his grandfather Om Prakash Chautala and father Ajay Chautala languished in jail in a teacher recruitment scam, uncle Abhay Chautala took over the entire party, leaving him in the lurch. At a rally in Gohana in October last year, Abhay Chautala was heckled by a section of the crowd; soon after, Dushyant Chautala and his brother Digvijay Chautala were blamed for the incident, and expelled from the INLD.
Abhay Chautala, his party’s tally currently down to 1 from 19 in 2014 famously said at the time : “Not everyone is capable of running a party.”
Chautala has proved him wrong. Between 2014 and 2019, Chautala was a member of the Lok Sabha and, while he has remained firmly rooted to issues of Haryana and agriculture, he didn’t shy away from speaking on subjects such as privacy, data protection, Pakistan, and the mental health bill.
Like other regional parties, Chautala’s new outfit also played with populist politics at least in its election manifesto. It promised to reserve 75% of the jobs in the state for locals and also offered a ₹11,000-a-month unemployment allowance.
The rise of Chautala opens a new chapter in Haryana politics and puts a question mark over the future of INLD.
“JJP has got support from young people and they managed to garner the INLD as well as anti-BJP votes especially in the Jat heartland. People also voted for the young leadership of Dushyant Chautala”, says Ramji Lal, a retired professor of political science.
(Inputs by Rajesh Moudgil and Neeraj Mohan from Chandigarh)