How INLD leader Abhay Chautala's resignation may play out for the JJP

Topics INLD | Abhay Chautala | Haryana

Abhay Chautala with Jat farmer leader Rakesh Tikait. Abhay is trying to win back Jat voters
The war cry “Bill wapsi ya gaddi wapsi” (repeal the farm laws or removal from power) by Jat farmer leader Rakesh Tikait in Jind district, the heart of Haryana, has fired up the protests against the new farm laws, promulgated by Parliament. The mahapanchayat in Kandela village of Jat-dominated Jind is a signal that the agitation could severely affect the BJP and its ally, the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP).

Now, as farmers are again at the forefront of Haryana politics, every party wants to have a finger in the pie by taking up their cause, but only few are willing to pay the price. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) is one of the parties that has pulled out all the stops to woo the peasantry, especially the Jats.

The resignation of its sole MLA, Abhay Singh Chautala, from the Haryana Assembly, making this the first time since 1996 that the party is without representation in the House, is its latest step to recover its lost glory. If political observers are to be believed, the INLD’s move can prove to be a masterstroke because it has little to lose and much to gain.

Kushal Pal, state coordinator, Lokniti, and head of the department of political science at Dyal Singh College, Karnal, said: “Although Abhay’s resignation does not affect the ruling coalition, it certainly has raised concern for the JJP, which won its seats in the INLD strongholds.”

“Abhay is eyeing the 10 seats the JJP won in 2019. With the factionalism in the Congress and the fall of the JJP, the INLD will be the biggest gainer,” Pal said.

However, former Haryana chief minister and Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda has said the resignation would help the BJP-JJP government during voting on the no-trust motion. A Congress MLA who considered Abhay’s decision to resign a political gimmick said: “Nobody is a fool in Haryana; everybody knows what his intentions are. People will never trust him.”

Abhay, grandson of former chief minister Devi Lal, said: “Hooda is a BJP agent. He walked out of the Assembly over the farm Acts instead of fighting the BJP.”

With anger brewing against the ruling coalition of the BJP and JJP, the opposition parties are losing no opportunity to build on their discomfort. Taking the lead, the INLD leader started his 12-day Kisan Janajagaran Sammelan on February 7 to visit all the 90 Assembly constituencies in the state.

Since the beginning of the farmers’ protests in Haryana, the INLD is working on a revival by organising the Kisan Samarthan Yatra. It has been at the forefront in mobilising farmers to all the three major protesting sites in Haryana — Tikri, Singhu, and Shajahanpur.

Explaining his party’s stand on farmers, Abhay said: “Farmers had voted us to power in the past and all we are doing is honouring their demands. But the ones who have taken their votes and refused to heed their requests will not be able to become members of village panchayats, let alone MLAs and MPs.”

Amit Deswal, a farmer who attended the Jind mahapanchayat said: “Dushyant had betrayed us by first allying with the BJP and now by not resigning from the alliance. Hum ne socha tha yo mahra rakshak ha par yo to aasteen ko saap nikalo (we thought he was our saviour but he turned out to be the devil in disguise).”

“With people’s confidence in the JJP diluted, it would not be surprising if it does not win a single seat in the next Assembly election,” Pal said.

The Jats have voted for the INLD for decades, but Dushyant Chautala’s decision to form his own party in 2018 was apocalyptic for the INLD, whose vote share declined to 2.44 per cent in the 2019 state election from 24.11 per cent in 2014.

Calling the JJP the party of “Jaichands” (the person who betrayed Prithviraj Chauhan in the late 12th century in the latter’s wars against Mohammed of Ghor), Abhay said the JJP got the votes of people who associated themselves with Devi Lal’s ideology, but now people had seen their true colours and were returning to the INLD.

Ram Kumar Gautam, JJP MLA from Narnaund, echoed Abhay’s views: “Dushyant has lost the trust of the people… No doubt the INLD will benefit from the JJP’s decline. But the Congress will also have a share.”

But Devender Singh Babli, JJP MLA from Tohana, is hopeful of a reconciliation with the protesting farmers soon. “The party is united and standing strong with the farmers. Very soon the issue will be resolved. We are in talks with the Central government to find a solution.”

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