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Chautala's future in doubt!

PTI | By, Chandigarh
May 14, 2004 10:36 PM IST

Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala has faced electoral setbacks before. But he has never presided over such a mammoth mess.

Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala has faced electoral setbacks before. But he has never presided over such a mammoth mess. The defeat of his candidates, including his sons Ajay and Abhay, in all 10 constituencies in the state has come as a numbing blow. It clearly spells trouble for the ruling INLD in the state elections to be held in a few months.

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HT Image

The INLD nominees have not only lost the seats with huge margins ranging from 50,000 votes to 2,00,000 votes, they have also trailed in roughly two-thirds of the 90 Assembly segments in the state. If the votes polled by the INLD in the assembly segments are looked at, what distinctly comes out is that the party leaders would need to put in an extraordinary effort to bring it back on track in most of the constituencies.

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In Bhiwani, Rohtak, Ambala, Sonepat, Karnal and Mahendergarh parliamentary constituencies, the INLD candidates have come at the number three spot.

The BJP and the HVP nominees have done better than its candidates. In essence, if the 1999 elections in which the INLD had won all 10 seats in alliance with the BJP had signalled its triumph in the Assembly elections, the fiasco in the parliamentary polls undoubtedly implies that the ruling party’s chances of pulling through in the Assembly elections have never looked dimmer.

What seems to have worked against the INLD is the undercurrent of resentment against its government on issues such as non-fulfillment of promises such as free power, failure to curb atrocities on Dalits, corruption and centralization of power.

Another equally significant factor is its acrimonious split with alliance partner BJP. The two parties had parted ways three months before the elections – it was more a consequence of the ego clash between their local leaders than political wisdom.

Things had started looking rocky for the INLD after the break-up with the BJP. The split not only deprived the party of the advantage the Vajpayee factor gave it in 1999, but also created a situation where the party even had problems finding suitable candidates in some of the constituencies. It had to field political novices such as former vice-chancellor Maj Gen B.S. Suhag (retd) and Swami Dharam Dev from Rohtak and Mahendergarh, respectively.

Once the line-up was final and the campaign picked up, its troubles started mounting and it became increasingly clear that Chautala would have problems shoring up the INLD’s sagging fortunes. But the INLD chief and his aides, who were banking on inner-party bickering in the Congress, kept making wildly optimistic predictions. The CM will now be hoping that the trend does not continue when the state goes to the polls eight months later.

‘We paid the price for supporting NDA’

Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala described his party’s drubbing as the people’s verdict against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). “Hamara haal toh channe ke saath ghun pisne ke jaisa hai. We backed the NDA for four years and have been made to pay for it,” he told HT over phone. Asked if the LS results were indicative of what is going to happen in the Assembly elections to be held in a few months, he said there was no link between the two. “The state elections would be entirely different. We contested the parliamentary elections on the development plank and will try to do more for the people,” he said. 
 

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    A senior assistant editor, Navneet Sharma leads the Punjab bureau for Hindustan Times. He writes on politics, public affairs, civil services and the energy sector.

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