Millennium Post

Buddha of our dreaded times

It has been left to 79-year-old and ‘critically’ ill former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala to give the tenor of rusticity to the campaign. And he is not doing a bad job smashing the norms of campaign, social, legal and logical, to smithereens. Chautala, who is serving a jail term for his involvement in the teachers recruitment scam in the state when he was chief minister, is out on bail because he is supposed to be ill. But his illness has not stopped him from campaigning vigorously for his party – the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).

His rivals have complained against him to the Election Commission and also moved a petition before the High Court for cancellation of bail. Keeping with its image of being a toothless body incapable of curbing poll malpractises, the poll panel so far has failed to intervene. The High Court has not seen any urgency to hear the matter and it has been posted for a date after the polls end. Any way political observers claim that even if the High Court was to cancel the bail, it would go to the benefit of INLD, which expects a sympathy wave to follow its leader’s imprisonment.

Coming back to the polls, Chautala has added the regional flavour to the campaign which is otherwise is threatening to be re-enactment of Narendra Modi versus the rest. A few days back talking about his conviction in the teachers recruitment scam case, Chautala told a rally that he has been sent to jail for ensuring job for people. Well, going by his argument and those of his supporters, there seems to be ‘strength’ in what he is stating.

Infamous for using strong arm and at times brutal means to silence their political rivals and critics, the Chautala parivar (family) also has no qualms in claiming that they are least power hungry. His father Chowdhary Devilal had once thrashed a MLA, who had defected leading to fall in numbers for government formation, right inside the premises of Raj Bhawan. In 1982, despite being in a minority, the Congress was invited to form the government by then Haryana governor G D Tapase. This had infuriated Devilal so much that he grabbed the governor by the neck. Tapase had given Bhajan Lal a month’s time to prove majority and Devilal took his 48 MLAs to his Tejakhera farmhouse in Sirsa district and at a hotel in Delhi. One MLA, however, had managed to climb down from the pipe and run away. Bhajan Lal, a master strategist at the politics of defections, had managed to prove his majority on the floor of the House.

Chautala, Devilal’s politically able son, has kept alive the legacy letting lose his goon in Meham assembly seat in 1990 organising violence taking it to a new level, resulting in cancellation of the by-election. This is not the only case of Chautala giving space to crime in politics and therefor when the man compares his father with Gautam Budhha, it’s a sign of we living in dreaded time. Last Sunday at a rally Chautala reiterated he was not power hungry but wanted to fulfil the dreams of Devilal, who had ‘sacrificed’ prime minister’s post for VP Singh. ‘I want to make one thing clear that we (INLD) are not power hungry. We do not want to grab power. Our mission is to fulfil the dreams and vision of Devilal. We are also seeking votes for the performance of our government when we were in power,’ Chautala said in Hodal and went onto add that Devilal, who served as country’s Deputy Prime Minister also, had ‘sacrificed the post of PM for the sake of (former PM) V P Singh. History shows that all the greats -- be it Lord Ram, Krishna, Mahavira, Buddha...all of them made sacrifices.’

Devilal in his time too had made statement during poll campaigns which made people, especially from urban areas, scurry for cover. During one such campaign he had said that the Congress government was so corrupt that it had stolen power out of water, which had lost its ability to irrigate the fields. What he meant was that water from rivers of Punjab was being used to generate hydel power at Bhakra-Nangal. But those were different times and people accepted what their Chowdhary saab, who later grew in stature and became a universal Tau (father’s elder brother), said.

There is, however, a difference between the father and the son. Devilal was a freedom fighter and one of the main progenitor of anti-Congress strand in the country. Highly respected, to an extent politically gullible, his personal integrity was known to be above suspicion. I wonder if he would have approved of Om Prakash Chautala’s claim that the teachers scam was executed to give job to people. He would also not have approved of being equated with Buddha and Mahavira. But then these are different times open to dreaded interpretations.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post

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