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From homemaker to INLD leader, Naina Chautala galvanises woman power

As the state heads for the assembly election next year, HT tracks her strategy to go pan-Haryana and focus on empowerment of women, a constituency untapped by her party that has roots in Haryana’s patriarchal heartland.

india Updated: Sep 30, 2018 10:42 IST
Rajesh Moudgil
Rajesh Moudgil
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
INLD,Naina Chautala,Ajay Chautala
At 52, Naina is the first woman member of one of the state’s powerful political clans venturing out in a patriarchal society to prop up the party’s fortunes. (HT Photo)

The Indian National Lok Dal sees the rise of its first woman leader in Naina Chautala, the wife of Ajay Chautala, the former MP who is barred from contesting for six years after his conviction in the JBT teachers’ recruitment scam five years ago. After a reluctant debut in 2014, Naina has transformed from a reticent homemaker to a firebrand leader. In the past year, she started holding all-woman rallies called Hari Chunari Ki Chaupal in keeping with the party’s trademark green colour.

As the state heads for the assembly election next year, HT tracks her strategy to go pan-Haryana and focus on empowerment of women, a constituency untapped by her party that has roots in Haryana’s patriarchal heartland.

True to the party colour, Naina Chautala, the wife of jailed Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Ajay Chautala and elder son of supremo Om Prakash Chautala, is holding Hari Chunari Ki Chaupal or village-level meetings with women in green dupattasas she plays a pivotal role in the party with Haryana set to go to the polls next year.

At 52, Naina is the first woman member of one of the state’s powerful political clans venturing out in a patriarchal society to prop up the party’s fortunes. Till two years ago, she limited herself to campaigning in the family’s home turf of Sirsa and Hisar but is now choosing to influence voters across the state.

Though her family represents one of the most backward regions of the state, Naina had a comfortable life until five years ago when her husband Ajay, a former MP, was sentenced to 10 years’ jail along with his father in the junior basic training (JBT) teachers’ recruitment case. She took the political plunge – a step no woman in her family had dreamt of – when she contested from her husband’s Dabwali assembly seat and won by 8,000 votes in 2014.

Her political journey may have begun with hesitant steps but today she has come a long way as a confident beacon of hope for the family. Far from the initial days when her voice and hands trembled as she spoke in Haryanvi accent in the assembly, today this arts graduate from Fateh Chand Women College, Hisar, is raring to win over Haryana by striking a chord at the grassroots with all-women meetings called Hari Chunari Ki Chaupal.

“It was tough to leave the protected environment of home and come out to meet the masses, listen to their problems and come up to their expectations. It is tougher for women as they still have a limited say in our society. So I started with Hari Chunari Ki Chaupal so that women could share their concerns,” says Naina.

Ushering in a change

On the organisational front, she took many by surprise when she told party leaders that there should be proper arrangements for women at INLD rallies. She confronted them, saying there was no seating arrangement for women at rallies leave aside an opportunity for them to speak. Her words ushered in a change in the party.

“I still find lack of awareness among women in villages. Girls discontinue studies after school for safety reasons. Job opportunities get restricted. I’ve been contributing my salary for the education of village girls and asking social organisations to work for them,” she says.

Asked why Haryana was unsafe for women, she says, “The minds of some youth are getting clouded. Our value system is not being valued. Boys and girls must respect each other’s dignity. Women’s safety, better education and health can bring about a change.”

Strength to the party

Talking about her rise in the party, Naina’s elder son Dushyant, who is the Hisar MP, says, “It’s dadaji (Om Prakash Chautala) who entrusted her the responsibility of carrying forward my father’s (Ajay Chautala’s) political legacy. She campaigned in my Lok Sabha constituency and now has plans to canvass for the party pan-Haryana from Palwal to Panchkula and Nangal Chaudhry to Dabwali.”

Ajay’s younger brother Abhay, who is also the Ellenabad INLD MLA and leader of opposition in the assembly, agrees that her role in the party is significant.

INLD state president Ashok Arora sees Naina’s participation as an initiative that will strengthen the party. “Women’s interaction with male representatives is not as much as it can be with a woman leader for obvious reasons. Now that Naina ji has taken this initiative, it will strengthen the party at the grassroots,” he says.

Naina held the chaupal at Ratia (Fatehabad) and Indri (Karnal) two weeks ago and plans more such gatherings after the paddy harvest.

First Published: Sep 30, 2018 10:40 IST