Campaign trail of Abhay Chautala: Eyeing CM’s post, Devi Lal’s grandson banks on personal connect

He may be facing the toughest electoral battle of his career but the confident-looking Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Abhay Chautala says he is a serious contender for the post of chief minister.

“Mera dada Ch Devi Lal aur pita Ch Om Prakash Chautala kabhi mantri nahin rahe and seedhe chief minister bane the. Mein ke kum hoon. Aapni party jitwa do, ib ke mein hi CM banuga,” he addresses a gathering at a village of Kalanwali (reserved) segment.

“Becoming a wazir (minister) is not a political tradition of the Devi Lal’s clan,” Abhay clarifies.

Though he was running about two hours behind the schedule on Monday, residents of Anandgarh village were seen waiting patiently for Abhay.

Campaigning for his electoral ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate Rajinder Singh Desujodha, Abhay insists the electors of Kalanwali to vote in his favour.

“Chautala Saab aur (SAD patriarch Parkash Singh) Badal Saab ka dostana sari duniya janti hai. Rajinder aapka beta hai, isko jitwa do mhare liye,” he said at another public meeting at Lakrawali village.

Attired in his trademark kurta-payjama, Abhay leaves from his house at around 10am whereas his first village election was listed at 9am. The venue is about 35km from his residence.

“I had a plan to have breakfast at a party activist’s residence at Rohirawali at 9am. But as a large number of supporters and leaders arrived at my Barnala Road residence in Sirsa, the schedule was upset. It’s already noon and even hosts have not taken morning meal,” he said.

As he was finishing a sumptuous meal comprising of “tandoori paratha, homemade whipped butter (makhan), yoghurt and besan burfi, the leader was informed about another important person at the village has offered to host high tea.

Abhay rushes to other locality to hurriedly sip a half cup of sugar-free tea. There he readily poses with youths for selfies.

“One cannot afford to miss any invitation extended by villagers as it is against the rural customs,” comments 54-year-old Abhay, who is seeking re-election for the fourth time.

His election campaign plan in Kalanwali segment coincided with the day the BJP organised an election rally at Mallekan, a village located in his constituency Ellenabad. A supporter says it was suspected that a section of villagers go to attend the BJP rally thus may lead to low turnout at bhai saab’s (Abhay’s) programmes.

On Monday, Abhay had a hectic schedule as he had to visit 25 villages of Kalanwali segment before joining campaigning in his constituency by evening.

On the way, he was constantly calling up sarpanches and other community leaders from his SUV and inviting them to the party’s meeting programmes. Appeals were made to join fellow villagers to work in support of the party nominee.

In his vehicle, Abhay was frequently briefed by close aides about the party deserters or those joining the INLD camp in the constituency.

“All four constituencies in our home district Sirsa are INLD’s stronghold. Villagers are familiar with our political working and just a phone call is enough to ensure their electoral support. It is just a social gesture that I am meeting them personally in villages,” he tells this reporter.

He does not miss a chance to wave back to the village elders or youth en-route. At different public meetings, he asks about the well-being of the elderly party workers whose names he remembers by heart.

Selection of Bagri dialect or Punjabi by Abhay depends upon the gathering of the villagers. But the content of his address did not change a bit and speeches were brief.

If chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar was his punching bag, Abhay made repeated references of late Devi Lal and Chautala.

While appealing people to vote for the SAD candidate, he urges villagers to teach a lesson to INLD deserters Balkaur Singh, the sitting MLA and former MP from Sirsa Charanjeet Singh Rori.

Denied party ticket from Kalanwali assembly seat, BJP leader Rajinder Singh Desujodha quit the party and joined the SAD, which immediately declared him the party candidate from the constituency.

Desujodha had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Haryana polls from Kalanwali as a BJP nominee. He lost to Akali Dal’s Balkaur Singh, who early this month joined the BJP. The saffron party had declared Balkaur as its candidate from Kalanwali.

“Aap ne en dono ko MLA aur MP banaya aur in logon ke aap sab ko aur party ko dhokha diya hai. Yeh jab bhi thare gaanv mein aayen, munh kala kar dena isse gaddaron ka,” his rustic talk invites a huge applause.

To a question on family feud, Abhay blames his elder nephew Dushyant Chautala for being overambitious politically.

“Have you heard me uttering a word against my family members? But they (Dushyant and others of his family) target me at every public meeting or media briefings. Be it is my younger uncle Ranjit Chautala or nephews Dushyant and Digvijay or any other family who deserted the INLD has never able to win any election. People identify us with the towering personality of Tau Devi Lal and individually we have no value,” he says in a philosophical tone.

As his protected convoy was heading for another destination in the dusty villages, Abhay predicts a hung assembly with the INLD forming government with the assistance of independents.

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