The resignation of Akali Dal’s lone Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet over farm ordinances has brought opposition pressure on Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party which is heading a coalition government with the BJP in Haryana.
The opposition attack on JJP started with a tweet from Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala. “Dushyant ji, Following Harsimrat Kaur Badal you should have resigned at least from the Dy CM post. You are more attached to your chair than farmers….”, Mr Surjewala tweeted last evening.
The Jannayak Janata Party or JJP, which has opposed BJP’s farm sector bills, shares many similarities with the Punjab-based Akali Dal.
Not only do both parties have a strong rural base in their respective states, they also share close family ties. While opposing the farm ordinances, Akali Dal’s Sukhbir Singh Badal had called former deputy prime minister late Devi Lal (who was the founder of the INLD and great-grandfather of Dushyant Chautala) as one of the greatest farm leaders. It is also believed that the Badals had an important role in sealing the alliance of the BJP and the JJP in Haryana.
The farmers’ agitation against the ordinance has put pressure on Dushyant Chautala’s JJP to take a stand on the issue like the Akalis. The JJP has been supporting the farm ordinances and blames the Congress for misleading the farmers.
The lathicharge on farmers during a protest rally in Kurukshetra district last week has also created problems for the JJP, which shares power in the state. Many farmers were badly injured and opposition had attacked the government for suppressing their voices.
“Certainly, I would like to say one thing that the incident which took place at Pipli is condemnable. There should be a probe against those persons who first stopped, but later gave permission (for the rally),” Dushayant Chautala, who is the Deputy Chief Minister in Haryana government, later said.
But now his own MLAs have started doubting his leadership.
JJP MLA Devender Babli has demanded a change in the party leadership claiming that “there was dissatisfaction among most of the party’s 10 MLAs”. Mr Babli is the second JJP MLA after fellow MLA Ram Kumar Gautam to expressed dissatisfaction against the leadership of Dushyant Chautala. Last week a video clip in which Babli appears to be levelling serious allegations against department officials was widely shared on social media.
While Dushyant Chautala said a probe will be ordered in the lathicharge issue, Haryana’s home minister contradicted him by denying of any use of force during farmers’ protest in Kurukshetra. “There was no lathicharge by the police on farmers,” Anil Vij had said earlier.
Sensing political damage, the JJP has now issued an apology for the lathicharge in Kurukshetra last week. “JJP apologises to the farmers subjected to lathicharge. JJP was always with the farmers…and interests of the farmers are always supreme for the party. After watching the video of lathicharge on farmers, the first thing we did was to condemn the incident as it was wrong,” Digvijay Chautala, who is younger brother of Dushyant Chautala and president of INSO, the youth wing of the JJP, said on Thursday.
Dushyant Chautala, however, has not yet opposed the farm ordinances which were passed in the Lok Sabha yesterday. Though JJP has been facing dissent within the party and also with its alliance partner, this is perhaps the first occassion that the party seems to be on the backfoot. The bigger question remains that will Chautalas follow Badals to win over farmers.