It couldn’t possibly be easy for a 25-year-old, however clean his image, to face questions about the conviction of his father and grandfather in a corruption case. More so when he is the face of his party, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), once headed by his illustrious great-grandfather Devi Lal.
But Dushyant Chautala, the son of the former MP Ajay Chautala and grandson of the former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, is well prepared. As the INLD’s candidate from the Hissar Lok Sabha constituency, this fourth-generation Chautala patiently tackles questions about the teachers’ recruitment scam, in which his father and grandfather stand convicted and jailed, at public meetings and media interactions.
“Those who point at the absence of my elders in this election have a petty mind. Whenever I go to the villages, I find hundreds of chachas and taus (uncles) ready to support me and the strength I get from them will help me win this election,” he said.
As for the Opposition charge of taking money in return for government jobs, Dushyant has another ready answer. “Is it a crime to give jobs? After all we gave jobs to our own people. My father went to jail for 3000 jobs. If we come to power again, I promise you that this time we will give 2.5 lakh jobs.”
Out of power for almost 10 years, deserted by the BJP, its ally of many years, and with its two senior leaders in jail, the INLD is probably going through its worst phase. But the GenNext Chautalas are not deterred. They have taken charge and are busy working up some sympathy for their present plight, some anger at the Congress temerity to send their elders to jail and lots of aggressive campaigning.
The INLD is contesting all 10 seats in Haryana and has made the contest in Hissar a matter of prestige. Mr. Dushyant Chautala faces Kuldeep Bishnoi, son of the former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, who defeated Mr. Dushyant Chautala’s father in the 2007 by-election, and Sampat Singh of the Congress, who as Mr. Devi Lal’s aide for long years was once a loyal Chautala hand.
Haryana watchers say winning Hissar is of utmost importance to the INLD because the future of the party may well be decided by Mr. Dushyant Chautala’s performance. After years in the wilderness, the party badly needs a win and this is why the Chautala clan took the lead in declaring support for the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, even when the latter declined to formally ally with them.
Mr. Dushyant Chautala says, “I was scheduled to join a course in a London college in January 2013, but could not do so because my father and grandfather were taken into custody.” To the crowd at Khedar village he repeats the same lines, adding the “Congress government is responsible for my not being able to complete my studies.”
His younger brother Digvijay and cousin Karan, too, have taken a break from their colleges in the U.K. to help in the elections. Watching over the three boys, all in their 20s, is Om Prakash Chautala’s younger son Abhay Chautala, a legislator from Ellenabad who flits across the State in a private chopper.
“They are trying to garner sympathy from the people and using every trick in the book to do so,” says Rishi Saini, proprietor of Hissar-based Nabh Chhor eveninger. INLD workers can be seen distributing copies of an emotional letter written to Haryanavis by the 80-year-old Om Prakash Chautala from jail a couple of weeks ago. “Despite my imprisonment for the last 14 months during this last leg of my life, I am worried about the poor condition of the State. But I am helpless in providing jobs to the youth due to my captivity,” reads the letter.