Millennium Post

Two natural comrades

Two former chief ministers of India are sailing in the same boat. Both are presently in two different jails after being sentenced by the courts in two different scams. Both have been leading their respective political party in their state and have been running the show as the authoritarian lord of the (administrative) rings. Om Prakash Chautala is in Tihar jail of Delhi and Lalu Prasad Yadav is in Birsa Munda jail of Ranchi, Jharkhand. They have many things in common and a few differences as far as their backgrounds and other facts are concerned.

Lalu Yadav, a product of JP movement, entered politics as a socialist and staunch opponent of the Congress party. However, he later supported the Congress; even joined the Congress-led UPA government at the centre and contested Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha elections as a pre-poll ally of the Congress and Lok Jan Shakti Party in Bihar. Prior to this, he was in Janata Party and Janata Dal, ultimately effecting a division to form his own Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).  Lalu dared to stop the Rath Yatra of LK Advani and created political obstacles in the BJP patriarch’s so-called Ashvmegh Yajna.  Lalu turned into a vocal critic of the saffron party to achieve sympathies and support of the Muslims. OP Chautala along with his father Devi Lal started his political career in the Congress to part Company of the oldest party in the seventies.

They tooth and nail opposed emergency. Devi Lal became flag bearer of JP movement in Haryana, organized the first rally at Kurksheshtra. Nobody in the city had courage to make an announcement for the rally. It was Devi Lal who made announcement by beating an empty ghee tin kanastar. Devi Lal and company formed their own party Indian National Lok Dal to become a bed fellow of the saffron party BJP without any hesitation of aligning with so called communal party. OP Chautala started as congressman and drifted away from it to follow anti-congress path whereas Lalu initially shined as an opponent of the congress and dynastic rule to ultimately back it as part of his political compulsions and to overcome a threat of extinction from Bihar. Lalu Yadav nurtured his family’s political ambitions and encouraged dynastic culture when he had to quit as the CM after he was fully tangled in the multi-crore fodder scam.

Devi Lal and company had been encouraging their family members to join politics right from the days of their stay in the Congress. Devi Lal, his brother Sahib Ram, the three sons of Devi Lal, including OP Chautala and even his two sons – all remained elected representatives from time to time. While keeping his family tradition, Chautala has baptised his grand sons as chaste politicians, and one of them is heading the youth wing of the party. As OP Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala are in jail, their party is being steered by the youngest son, Abhay Chautala. Similarly, Lalu’s RJD is likely to be headed by either his wife and former CM, Rabri Devi, or his son Tejaswi, during Lalu’s absence from the political stage during his jail term.

Both Lalu and Chautala have been sentenced (along with 45 and 54 others respectively) as the two scams were both proved to be parts of the bigger criminal conspiracy and cheating. Agitated supporters protested in the court complexes and even barged into the court rooms when the sentences were being pronounced in case of both. The Delhi court had sentenced OP Chautala and his elder son Ajay to 10 years of imprisonment under various provisions of the IPC and the prevention of Corruption Act for illegal recruitment of over 3,000 JBT teachers in Haryana.

Clearly, Chautala would be absent from the electoral battles for 16 years whereas Lalu would remain in political wilderness for 11 years. The court found Lalu guilty in just one of the cases against him—that of criminal conspiracy, corruption and cheating. Judgment on the other five cases is awaited. A special CBI court in Ranchi pronounced sentence of five years and a fine of Rs 25 lakh for RJD chief Lalu Yadav in the Rs 37.70 crore fodder scam case.

Chautala 78, four-time Haryana CM is today a dejected person. He would not be able to see the light of the political day for 16 years. He succeed his father Devi Lal to become CM on 2 December 1989 upon elevation of the latter as deputy PM, the succession was not so easy as Chautala lost Maham by-election and in the second attempt he remained CM for just five days.

As regards Lalu, he has a capability to bounce back and even mesmerize people while remaining behind the bars. Lalu, 67, acquired the post of CM not because of succession but because of his popularity. Lalu knows how to connect with people whereas Chautala is lacking this quality. He has not been able to inherit the trait from his father. Only a few persons are aware that Devi Lal had once disowned OP Chautala when he was allegedly caught smuggling watches at Delhi airport. The road ahead is bumpy for both of them.

The author is a communication consultant
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