The Curious Case Of Dushyant Chautala, Whose Unwavering Support To The BJP Over Farm Laws Has Baffled Even His Supporters
The BJP-JJP alliance in Haryana may have defeated the no-confidence motion but it can’t afford to celebrate too much.
There is resentment against the ruling regime for supporting the three farms laws so much so that most MLAs can’t even visit their own constituencies for fear of being attacked.
The operation was successful but the patient died.
This famous quip in the medical community about missing the forest for the trees or mistaking optics for reality perhaps aptly describes the no-confidence vote defeated on 10 March by the incumbent coalition government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) in Haryana.
While the leaders of both the parties — Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and his deputy in the government Dushyant Chautala — wore big smiles on their faces after winning the trust vote in the state assembly, words of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda would not be lost on them.
After the alliance won the vote emphatically by 55-32, Hooda said that it "may have survived the no-confidence motion, but it has fallen in the eyes of the people”.
Such rhetoric against the government coming from the leader of the opposition would be ignored by any serious analyst if it wasn’t true.
Hooda was right on point when he said the leaders of the BJP and JJP “can’t get into their own villages. They just keep flying around in helicopters that can’t land. The chief minister couldn’t even go to Panipat to unfurl the national flag on January 26. He had to fly to Panchkula. This is the condition of this government”.
The BJP MLAs can still hope to visit parts of their constituencies as they represent more urban areas comprising of non-farmer vote base but the 10 JJP MLAs, who represent not simply the rural voters but chiefly the Jat voters in these areas, are in much bigger trouble.
JJP MLA from Tohana, Devendra Singh Babli shared the sorry state that the party has put its own representatives in.
"The situation is such that we (JJP) should now leave the government because people are unhappy with us. People don't let us enter their villages. I urge the chief minister and deputy chief minister to hold events in villages...or any other MLA to do it...people will beat us with sticks. We will need to get iron armour and helmets to protect ourselves," he told the media a day before the trust vote.
Another JJP MLA Narnaund Ram Kumar Gautam demanded that the house pass a resolution urging the Union government to put on hold the implementation of the three farm laws till next general election.
Jogi Ram Sihag, JJP MLA from Barwala, said in the assembly that “farmers are apprehensive about the three farm laws. The state legislature must enact a new law guaranteeing the MSP to farmers”.
Faced with immense public pressure, as many as six JJP MLAs in the past have come out in support of the protesting farmers and against the farm reforms enacted by the Centre.
It is due to this reason that despite the BJP-JJP coalition enjoying comfortable majority in the assembly with support of five independents, there was some unease about possibility of cross voting.
However, Chautala’s dinner diplomacy (as Dainik Bhaskar put it) with all his MLAs, seems to have worked for now and convinced the dissenting voices to not revolt after he assured them that their voices wouldn’t be ignored in future and the government officials would listen to their grievances, something that the MLAs had complained about.
Of course, the obvious question that arises in such a political environment where JJP leaders are facing massive public anger is this: is being in the government so profitable for the party that it is willing to risk its political future?
The question is easier to answer and too obvious for Haryanvis who know the nature and history of the Chautala family. The ultimate goal of family-owned political enterprises such as the JJP is not to serve the public or the party but primarily the interests of the family. (His own MLAs refer to the BJP-JJP combine as the ‘most corrupt‘ dispensation).
Moreover, Chautala must be relying on short public memory. After all, if his grandfather Om Prakash Chautala can win 32 seats in 2009 within five years of being routed for providing one of the most corrupt dispensations notorious for gunda raj, he can surely hope to make a comeback in a decade if not by the next elections.
Chautalas have been out of power since 2005. JJP is a new party. It needs funds. Being in the government provides many avenues to build up the war chest for foreseeable future. Additionally, Dushyant Chautala is young. He is only 32 and can wait for long.
He also knows well that the BJP didn’t need him to form the government in 2019. Nor it would miss him if he walked out of the alliance.
The Khattar government can survive five years even with the help of independents. And sitting in opposition doesn’t guarantee any improvement in Chautala’s electoral fortunes.
His core vote bank are Jat voter in parts of Hisar, Sirsa, Sonipat and Bhiwani Lok Sabha constituencies and he has to compete with another Jat leader Hooda for that limited vote bank.
That pie is not going to grow unless Congress dumps Hooda and makes a non-Jat leader its face. Allying with the BJP makes more sense in the long run as the saffron party brings the urban, non-Jat vote to the table which complements well with the JJP’s rural, Jat vote.
Haryana is now essentially a two way contest between Congress and the BJP with JJP as a third (but smaller) force.
It’s in Chautala’s interest to stick with the BJP for now. He may not even mind losing the next election for that. In fact, going by his thick-skinned approach to farm protests that has baffled everyone, he may already have given up on 2024.
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