For the first time in nearly four decades, the family of towering Jat leader and former Deputy Prime Minister (1989-91) Devi Lal is staring at an uncertain political future as two generations fight it out to claim his legacy in the dusty politics of Haryana.
As Haryana goes in for the Lok Sabha elections on May 12 and crucial Assembly elections in October, the Chautala family, headed by Devi Lal's son Om Prakash Chautala, has seen a bitter political split.
While Chautala and his younger son Abhay Singh Chautala are on one side and control the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), his elder son Ajay Singh Chautala, his wife Naina Chautala and two sons - Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala and emerging young leader Digvijay Chautala - have formed the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP).
Till just six months ago, the INLD was the main opposition party in the state and was well on the path to give a serious challenge to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the well-established Congress.
From November 2018, the split in the Chautala family came out in the open and divided the party right in the middle.
The first test for the INLD and the newly-formed JJP came in the by-election for the Jind Assembly seat on January 28. While the JJP's Digvijay Chautala gave a good fight and finished second behind the BJP winner candidate, the INLD lost its security deposit on the seat.
Notably, The INLD had won the seat twice in recent years and the by-poll result was a big setback for the party which is being run mainly by Abhay Chautala.
Dushyant Chautala, 31, and Digvijay Chautala, both young leaders, and their mother Naina Chautala, who is a sitting legislator in Haryana, are giving a tough time to the INLD and Abhay Chautala.
Abhay Chautala was forced to resign as Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Haryana Assembly in March after the INLD tally of legislators in the Assembly came down after some legislators went with the JJP.
"The elections will show who carries the legacy of Chaudhary Devi Lal," Dushyant Chautala, who won the Hisar Lok Sabha seat in the 2014 general elections, said recently.
Om Prakash Chautala, 84, and Ajay Chautala, 58, are serving their 10-year jail term in Delhi's Tihar prison following their conviction in the JBT (junior basic teacher) recruitment scam by a CBI court in Delhi in January 2013.
The split in the Chautala family has definitely strengthened the BJP and even the Congress in the election season. The results will show how much the Chautala family is able to salvage and stay politically afloat.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at email@example.com)
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