Monday, December 4, 2023

Political scion romancing the desert

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By Prateek Som

Dushyant Chautala, a 35-year-old political prodigy, effortlessly connects with people, exuding wisdom beyond his years. His political journey took off in 2014 at the age of 26, becoming the youngest Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha.

Unfortunately, at the age of 11, he experienced the loss of his great-grandfather, Ch Devi Dal, a revered figure in Haryana politics, who had served as the Deputy Prime Minister and two-time chief minister of the state, making him one of the tallest Jat leaders from the region.

Currently, Dushyant Chautala is actively serving as the Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana and leading the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP).

He navigates a political tightrope in Rajasthan, where the JJP, deeply rooted with a significant following, gears up for the state assembly elections, claiming Chaudhary Devi Lal’s political legacy.

The party, named ‘Jannayak’ in his honor, emerges as a natural contender in Rajasthan, presenting a candidate list with strong contenders like Prithviraj Meel, Nand Kishore Mahriya, Dr Rita Singh, and others. Most candidates are former legislators or members of state panchayat bodies, with some having switched allegiances from the BJP and the Congress.

The recent release of the JJP’s initial candidate list for the Rajasthan elections triggered discussions about its relationship with its Haryana ally, the BJP.

Despite challenges, including opposition from dissatisfied farmer leaders, the JJP remains steadfast, intending to contest 20 of the total 200 seats in Rajasthan, potentially disrupting the BJP’s electoral strategies in the state.

Similar to its significant presence in the 90-member Haryana Assembly, where it holds 10 seats, the JJP’s performance in Rajasthan could influence the state’s political landscape. The final election results will determine the extent of the JJP’s impact in the Jat belts of Rajasthan.

Dushyant Chautala, now the longest-serving Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana, rides high on his image of development politics. He boldly highlights achievements in ministries under him, such as Haryana topping in GST collection, bringing women into the mainstream through reservation in Panchayati Raj, and championing the 75% employment reservation bill for local Haryana youth in private sector jobs.

Despite being adored by the general public, his large crowds in Jan Sunwai Darbars or political rallies make him a target for opposition leaders and even those within the BJP.

His response to such attacks is a confident statement that they are “insecure and scared of a young man making his mark in politics while ending their political careers too.”

As the political landscape continues to evolve in both Haryana and Rajasthan, Dushyant Chautala and the JJP finds itself in a delicate position, with the potential to shape the outcomes of the upcoming elections. Dushyant Chautala’s rural outreach, characterized by camel carts on the campaign trail in Rajasthan, underscores his commitment to projecting the JJP as the party of the poor, the farmers, and the working class.

He emphasizes achievements such as quotas for Haryana locals in private sector jobs, reservation for women in Panchayati Raj institutions, and the purchase of crops at the minimum support price (MSP) as reasons for voters in Rajasthan to support the JJP. Additionally, his efforts to ensure quick disbursal of crop-loss compensation directly into farmers’ bank accounts resonate with the farming community. Dushyant Chautala’s strategic focus on regional representation in the state Assembly highlights his dedication to ensuring farmers and the less privileged are well-represented in policy formulation.

His previous advocacy for farmers, demonstrated by driving a tractor to Parliament, further strengthens his image as a farmer leader. In the upcoming Rajasthan elections, Dushyant Chautala and the JJP hold significant relevance for several reasons, one among them being historical ties, as his family has deep-rooted historical connections with Rajasthan.

His grandfather, Devi Lal, and father, Ajay Singh Chautala, have had significant engagements in the state, with Devi Lal being an MP from Sikar, and Ajay Chautala serving as an MLA twice in the Rajasthan Assembly.

Another crucial aspect is his Rural Outreach, as he adopts innovative campaign strategies, such as using camel carts in rural Rajasthan, symbolizing his commitment to the farming community. These efforts resonate strongly in Rajasthan’s rural areas, where agriculture plays a vital role in people’s lives.

In summary, Dushyant Chautala’s bold and intricate political maneuvers and the JJP’s presence hold the potential to significantly impact the electoral landscape in Rajasthan, making them key players to watch in the upcoming elections.

—Prateek Som is an Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and National Spokesperson of JJP, and is currently pursuing Masters program as Mason Fellow in Harvard University

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