With its eye on old strongholds, INLD steps up before Devi Lal's anniversary
The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), a prominent political force in Haryana with a substantial support base in the neighbouring Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, is in the process of redefining and reclaiming its space in the present political scenario in the state and on the national level.
The execution of its new strategy is expected to start on the 103rd birth anniversary of party patriarch Chaudhary Devi Lal - a two time chief minister of Haryana and also a former deputy prime minister - that falls on 25 September.
A show of strength
The party has decided to hold a show of strength on the occasion to send across the message to the electorate that it stands firmly entrenched not only in Haryana, but would also take the legacy of Devi Lal forward in providing an alternative force at the national level.
Although the party has been organising large scale programmes to mark Devi Lal's birth anniversary every year, the occasion this year would be special on several counts.
To begin with, INLD has chosen Karnal as the venue for its rally. Karnal is the home turf of BJP chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, whom the party has been attacking regularly. The attacks have intensified since the Jat agitation for reservation in educational institution and jobs earlier this year. While the Congress has also been attacking Khattar on various issues, INLD has the advantage of being a united force while the Congress has been marred by heavy infighting.
Winning back the strongholds
"It needs to be kept in mind that the areas along the GT Road which include parts of Ambala, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Panipat and Sonepat, were one the strongholds of INLD. But during the last assembly polls, the people here voted in favour of the BJP. The INLD now wants to win back the public support in these areas," said a party insider.
In fact, the BJP's rise to power in Haryana has been mainly from the seats along the districts on the GT Road. It had failed to make inroads into the southern districts of the state that are mainly dominated by the Jat community. These districts - Rohtak, Sirsa, Bhiwani, Jind, Mahendragarh, Rewari, Kaithal and Hisar - remain under the influence of INLD and the Congress.
"While the INLD has its Jat base intact, it wants to now get the support of other communities particularly those who had moved away from it. The INLD's political journey has been peculiar thanks to the influence of Devi Lal's brand of politics. Although seen as a primarily Jat party, it has had non-Jats and even Dalits representing it in considerable numbers in the past," said a political observer based in Chandigarh.
Presenting a third front
Another important aspect of the anniversary event is that the party is looking to provide a platform for regional forces to come together with the goal of forming a third front ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
"There is a scope and need for the third front," said senior INLD leader Abhay Chautala, who is currently the leader of opposition in the Haryana assembly.
Chautala said that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, Samajwadi Party leader Shivpal Yadav, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, Janata Dal (United) leaders KC Tyagi and Santosh Bharti have all confirmed their participation in the event. Invites have also been sent to other political leaders including Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal.
"Devi Lal had played a pivotal role in engineering the creation of the third front led by the Janata Dal that came to power in 1989. It was he who had worked towards providing VP Singh as an alternative to the Congress. Equally important is the fact that ever since the Congress was routed in 1989, no member of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty has become the prime minister of the country. The Congress might have formed the government, but the prime ministers were always other than those from the family. This is all a result of Devi Lal's politics," said a party insider.
A tattered social fabric
The INLD leadership has been working overtime to reach out to the people to make the event a success. Party MP Dushyant Chautala and MLA Abhay have been touring the districts across the state along with other senior leaders and reminding the masses of Devi Lal's contribution to Haryana and its people.
The tone and tenor of the INLD leadership is suggestive of the fact that the occasion would serve the party with an opportunity to lambast the Khattar government on all fronts. The party has named the event as Sadbhavna Samman Divas.
During the Jat agitation, INLD blamed the Khattar government for allowing this to happen by paralysing the administration on one side and allowing its leaders to make provocative statements on the other.
The INLD leadership also chose to use the occasion of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar's 125th birth anniversary to hold its 90 Sadbhavna Sammelans and reach out to the masses.
"We have been successful in stitching together the social fabric of 36 Biradaris. This will be visible at our rally on September 25. The BJP is once again trying to create an atmosphere of hatred in the state," said Chautala, while referring to the recent Mewat gang rape and murders reported from Dinger Heri village of the district. Criticising the government for allowing Hindu Mahapanchayat to take place at the spot on the day of Eid-ul-Azha, the INLD has demanded a CBI probe in the issue.
He was also critical of Khattar for the government's failure to check the rising graph of crimes against women and termed BJP as 'Be Jubaan Party' that stands as a mute spectator towards all the wrongs being done in the state.
The rally will also set the tone for going more aggressive against the government for it indecisiveness as the latter completes its two years in office in a little more than a month.
Edited by Aleesha Matharu