The proposed events on September 25 to mark the 109th birth anniversary of the former deputy prime minister and iconic farmer leader, Devi Lal, has put the spotlight on two rival parties in Haryana — the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP). Both of them are run by members of the Chautala clan, with its patriarch Om Prakash Chautala, son of Devi Lal, heading the INLD and his grandson Dushyant Chautala, who is Deputy Chief Minister in the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government, leading the JJP.
While both the parties consider Devi Lal as their idol and woo the electorate in his name, they will celebrate his birth anniversary separately and in different ways.
Struggling to make a comeback in Haryana politics, the INLD is making attempts to project itself as a party that is the “true follower of Devi Lal’s principles”. It is going all out to hold a “Samman Diwas” rally at Fatehabad on September 25 as a show of strength for which it has invited a slew of top Opposition leaders from across the country. The INLD is projecting this rally as the beginning of formation of a third front that would eventually take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
On the other hand, the JJP, which is a key ally of the BJP-led coalition government, is going to hold some charitable events and unveil Devi Lal’s statues on his birth anniversary.
Ahead of the 2019 Haryana Assembly elections, infighting within the Chautala clan caused a split in the INLD resulting in the formation of the JJP. Amid the rift between Om Prakash Cuatala’s two sons — Abhay Chautala, INLD secretary general and its lone MLA from Ellenabad, and Ajay Chautala, Dushyant’s father and JJP president — both parties have not missed any opportunity to trade barbs, even as they have stepped up their bids to claim Dev Lal’s legacy.
The 87-year-old Jat leader and five-time CM, Chautala, who came out of prison last year on completion of his 10-year jail term, has been looking to steer the INLD back into reckoning in Haryana politics through the Samman Diwas rally.
To ensure a mega rally to commemorate Devi Lal’s birth anniversary, the INLD has invited NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Bihar CM and JD(U) supremo Nitish Kumar, Meghalaya Governor Satyapal Malik, Shiromani Akali Dal patron Prakash Singh Badal, Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, ex-Maharashtra CM Uddhav Tackeray, ex-PM HD Deve Gowda, SP president Akhilesh Yadav, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, among others, party leaders told The Indian Express, claiming that a number of them have also confirmed their participation in the rally.
The INLD is carrying out its preparations for the September 25 event in full swing, readying the venue spread over many acres at Fatehabad, where multiple large stages are being set up to accommodate the Opposition stalwarts from across the country. Led by Abhay Chautala, a team of senior INLD leaders are monitoring the entire preparations.
On its part, the JJP would also hold various events on September 25, although it would not hold any rally on the day. The JJP has instead decided to organise its show of strength by holding a rally on its foundation day, December 9, for which, the party says, it will invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah besides other top leaders of its ally BJP.
“Our party’s name Jannayak Janta Party shows that we are working on the principles of Jannayak Chaudhary Devi Lal. Till the day our respected leader Chaudhary Om Prakash Chautala is there, if we hold a parallel rally in front of him…it is not good on our part. Any sort of comparison at any public platform with Chautala Saab…our principles do not allow that,” said Digvijay Chautala, the JJP’s secretary general.
“I can only say that Chaudhary Devi Lal’s name is an institution in itself…. I would like to ask Abhay ji (Abhay Chautala) what is his problem if anybody else is putting garlands at Chaudhary Devi Lal’s statue? Devi Lal can never be his party (INLD) only, he is the idol of every farmer and every person of Haryana and the entire nation. He (Devi Lal) can never belong to one person or one party. Whatever programmes are held on his birth anniversary, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Assam to Gujarat, we appreciate all such programmes. We even appreciate the Fatehabad rally that they are holding in his honour,” he said.
On the JJP’s September 25 plans, Digvijay Chautala said: “Statues of Chaudhary Devi Lal will be unveiled in Kaithal and Dadri. It is one of the key priorities of Haryana Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala to open e-libraries to promote education in rural areas that shall be launched on that day from NEET topper Tanishka’s village Bachhod in Mahendragarh. Till December 9, we shall complete this work of opening 108 model libraries across the state. Blood donation and health check-up camps, among other events, will also be organised.”
The INLD is banking on its Devi Lal Samman Diwas rally to re-launch itself in Haryana politics. Although it would not be the first time when top “third front” leaders will be sharing the dais with Chautala, but their presence at a single event together amid the ongoing talks about uniting the Opposition against the BJP for the 2024 general elections assumes political significance.