Out of power for past 14 years, split looms large over Chautala clan, INLD
Long before positioning its warhorses for the next year’s Haryana assembly polls, the clan of former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala is reeling under a dangerous power struggle within its members.
Already out of power for the past 14 years, the prospects of split in his powerful political family are looming large due to the tussle over controlling the levers of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).
This is the second major crisis the party is facing after INLD supremo Chautala and his elder son and former MP Ajay Singh Chautala were sent to Delhi’s Tihar jail for 10 years in a recruitment scam in 2013.
Now, all eyes are on Thursday when the party chief is expected to come out of jail for a medical checkup and decide if his rebel grandsons---Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala, his younger brother Digvijay Chautala, the sons of Ajay Chautala--will be booted out of the party.
Party sources say as this family feud has potential to trigger tremors in the INLD, the party think tank and advisors of Chautala are “exploring even thin possibilities” of rapprochement or to delay the inevitable action.
The tussle has come out in the open at a time when the party under the command of Abhay Chautala is appearing stronger ahead of elections, due next year.
Party leaders say the burden of leading the INLD fell on “fun-loving” Abhay “with least interest in active politics” when his father and elder brother were jailed and the pundits had then predicted that the party ould fall apart.
Howver, the INLD chief has been publically applauding Abhay for his organisational capabilities and bringing the party back on rails. This pat on the back of Abhay, who is seen as INLD’s next CM if the party comes to power, is at the heart of the power struggle within it.
Sources say another option being debated is to delay expulsion of Dushyant and his brother till Diwali when Ajay will be out on parole and use the occasion to iron out the differences.
The trigger behind grandfather Chautala appearing inclined to show his grandsons the doors of the party is the alleged indiscipline of the supporters of Hisar MP Dushyant and his brother during October 7 rally held to mark the birth anniversary of former deputy prime minister Devi Lal, OP Chautala’s late father.
When Abhay rose to speak at the rally, activists of Indian National Student Organisation (INSO), INLD’s now-disbanded youth wing, which was under the command and control of the Hisar MP and his brother, didn’t let Abhay speak. This hooliganism took place even as INLD chief was present. The youth brigade shouted slogans and demanded declaration of Dushyant as the chief ministerial candidate of the party.
Party insiders say it is this “daring demand to project Dushyant as party’s CM candidate” that was seen as “grandsons challenging their grandfather.” “That’s the reasons behind Chautala Senior acting tough and taking decisions faster than anticipated. He wanted to throw the boys out at the earliest, but his advisors are getting the decision delayed, hoping that the boys will tender an apology and accept their mistakes,” a senior INLD leader said.
Top party leaders say when Hisar MP met his grandfather on October 17, he began narrating his side of the story, instead of apologising.
“This attitude of Dushyant jolted Chautala who then decided to bite the bullet,” they said.
A day later, Chautala’s wife Sneh Lata met both her grandsons — Dushyant and Digvijay in Delhi.
In the meantime, another effort was made to control the damage when Abhay, along with his three sisters, went to Tihar jail to meet Ajay.
“Ajay didn’t come to meet Abhay. This is a testament of Ajay’s 100% involvement in what his sons are doing,” a top INLD leader said, pointing out that rapprochement is now unlikely.
However, Digvijay said: “No one has reached out to us. We are looking forward to Thursday.”
“Abhay had pumped in money to set up INSO and the women wing, headed by Dushyant’s mother Naina Chautala . In case of split these wings may not remain with INLD,” a political observer said.
With rebel grandsons of Chautala senior digging in their heels, the inevitable action is likely sooner rather than later.
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