It is hard to imagine that a party that has been sitting it out for 13 years can be convulsed in a vicious inner-family struggle for the Chief Minister’s position for state elections almost a year away. The absurdities do not end there. The proxy fight in the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) is being waged on behalf of a father-son duo in jail on corruption charges. A charitable explanation is that the Chautala family has convinced itself of an upswing in INLD’s fortunes on the strength of a state-level alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Therefore, this is the right time to settle the leadership issue to get an upper hand during ticket distribution for the 2019 general and state elections.
Unless the rebellious grandsons of imprisoned party supremo OP Chautala cast their lot with another party, they do not hold many aces. In the past, OP Chautala’s brother had joined the Congress after Devi Lal passed him for INLD’s leadership. In 2016, OP Chautala’s daughter-in-law lost an election to a BJP-supported relative. Abhay, leader of opposition in the Haryana Assembly, is OP’s favoured choice, persuading most MLAs to stay with the ‘official’ faction. The rebels have control over some of the party’s sinews but that will be inadequate to accomplish the end-goal — hoisting young Dushyant as the CM candidate. But a sulk or a split can spoil uncle and heir-apparent Abhay’s bid to lead the INLD to a win. In that case, knives will be out for Abhay for failing to win two polls in a row.
The Chautala family feud has been moving in stops and starts because the two main protagonists are in jail and politics of either faction gains momentum when one of them is out on parole. Dushyant’s father will test the waters before announcing the future course of action at a rally in Jind. But to win the state, the Chautala family should be mindful that it needs an invigorating political vision more than a clear line of command, tired clichés about Sutlej-Yamuna canal and an untested Dalit-Jat combination.