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The rise of Dushyant Chautala and why he could be heir to Devi Lal's legacy

Dushyant became the youngest MP in 2014 when he was elected from Hisar, defeating Congress veteran Kuldeep Bishnoi

Press Trust of India  |  Chandigarh 

Dushyant Chautala, JJP
Jannayak Janata Party leader Dushyant Chautala before a meeting with newly elected party MLAs, at his residence in New Delhi, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019 | Photo: PTI

The results of the Assembly elections possibly settled the debate on the legacy of former deputy prime minister and Jat stalwart Devi Lal in the favour of his great grandson

His father Ajay Chautala, who walked out of Tihar prison in Delhi for two weeks on a furlough, said he feels proud that "Today, I am known in the public as Dushyant's father". A former MP, he said it was hard to believe that in just ten months Dushyant has built the party and some of its candidates made even stalwarts bite the dust.

Dushyant trounced BJP sitting MLA Prem Lata, wife of former Union minister Birender Singh, from Uchana Kalan, while his Jannayak Janata Party's Ram Kumar Gautam defeated senior minister Abhimanyu from Narnaund constituency.

With ten seats, JJP emerged in the 'kingmaker's' role as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party ended up winning only 40 seats in the 90-member assembly. The BJP sought the support of Dushyant's JJP, and the seven Independents, to enable it to form a stable government.

The 31-year-old US-educated Dushyant, who comes from the Jat community, made some quick moves and ruled out possibility of supporting the Congress, which has 31 members.

A meeting with Union Home Minister and BJP president Amit Shah sealed the deal and the BJP-JJP coalition was formed.

Dushyant, however, will have to do the balancing act between his anti-BJP support base and work with the Khattar-led dispensation for smooth governance.

Then aged 26, Dushyant became the youngest MP in 2014 when he was elected from Hisar, defeating Congress veteran Kuldeep Bishnoi. Five years later, he is leading a party and has been made Chief Minister M L Khattar's deputy.

In the assembly polls, the parent Indian Lok Dal, headed by Dushyant's grandfather Om Prakash Chautala and uncle Abhay Chautala, was trumped by the breakaway JJP. The INLD could manage to win just one seat, slumping to its worst performance.

Dushyant, who stands nearly 6 feet 4 inches tall and many say resembles Devi Lal, has now emerged as a leader of some reckoning in the Jat community, as well among Haryana's youth.

Last year, the INLD split between Dushyant's father Ajay Chautala and uncle Abhay Chautala the two sons of Om Prakash Chautala. Ajay Chautala and his father are serving a jail term in connection with a teachers' recruitment scam during the INLD tenure.

Dushyant is described as a risk-taker by some. He opted to form his own political outfit, rather than get into in a legal battle with his uncle Abhay Chautala over holding the reins of INLD.

Despite attempts made by some 'khaps' and even former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, a family friend of the Chautalas, for a reconciliation, Dushyant remained firm.

Just a month after coming into being last December, the JJP faced its first electoral challenge in the Jind bypoll. Its candidate Digvijay Chautala lost to the BJP but managed to push Congress stalwart Randeep Singh Surjewala to the third position.

The JJP then fought on seven seats in the Lok Sabha polls in April-May, leaving three for the Aam Aadmi Party.

The BJP made a clean sweep on all the 10 parliamentary constituencies in the state and Dushyant lost his own Hisar seat.

But the defeat appeared to have not deterred him from going for the bigger goal to build the party and make it a fighting force ahead of assembly polls. This time his party did not enter into any alliance, deciding to contest independently.

He opted for a tough seat himself, fighting from Uchana Kalan against Prem Lata, who had defeated him the last time.

Recalling his journey over the last five years, Dushyant had told PTI, "There has been a lot of change, I had to leave my higher education, get into and today I am leading a party. It requires drastic effort and big changes."

Dushyant went to the prestigious Lawrence School, Sanawar in Himachal Pradesh. He has a masters degree in law and mass communication from Indian universities.

As an MP, Dushyant was active in Parliament. He asked 677 questions on issues including railway and highway projects, crime against women, child labour and drug trafficking. To highlight farmers' concerns, he drove a tractor to Parliament two years ago.

The tractor featured prominently in this election as well. Along with wife Meghna and MLA-mother Naina Chautala, he rode one on October 21 to cast his vote in Jind.

First Published: Sun, October 27 2019. 14:50 IST
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