Jailed in Delhi, unwanted in Haryana

Chandigarh: Most politicians would go to any extent to keep their opponents at bay. But Haryana’s Bhupinder Singh Hooda would surely take the cake for his reluctance to take back former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and 54 others convicted in a teachers’ recruitment scam in January and jailed in Delhi, where the trial was conducted.

Why so? Because legally, it would be valid to send them to their home state to serve their prison terms. But politically, it seems to be an unwise move.

Thus, with the top leadership of the state’s main opposition party – Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) – behind bars in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, Hooda has rejected the Delhi government’s proposal to lodge Chautala and others in prisons in Haryana.

Again, why so?

With Chautala and his elder son, Ajay Chautala, also convicted in the scam and in jail, Hooda finds himself in a situation where he and the Congress could have a free run in the absence of a formidable opposition in the April-May 2014 general elections and assembly polls later in the year. Khap

The Delhi government had proposed moving Chautala and the others to prisons in Haryana as they all belonged to the state. It also pointed out that relatives of the convicts found it difficult to come to Delhi every time to meet them.

But Hooda’s government refuses to play ball. Haryana has rejected Delhi’s proposal, saying that the case was registered and tried in the national capital.

Hooda knows full well that if Chautala and others are shifted to Haryana, the INLD’s politics will start running from the prison.

Chautala, who has been out on bail for the last two months on medical grounds, has been busy meeting people, especially political leaders, in New Delhi and Gurgaon.

After Chautala and his son were jailed, the INLD tried to boost the morale of its cadres through Chautala’s younger son, Abhay Chautala, but acheived little. The INLD, which was targeting a big comeback, has been pushed to the back-foot by the convictions. Thus, Hooda sees only a decimated political threat from the party.

Another opposition group, the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had also forged an alliance last year. They have however hardly been able to put up a collective show. BJP leaders are hobnobbing with the INLD. Both had an alliance till 2005.

Given this scenario, Hooda not only sees a clear field for himself but has also announced himself to be the Haryana chief minister for a third term. His confidence stems from the disarray in the opposition camp.

Hooda could do well to ensure that his confidence does not turn into over-confidence and sours the scene for him. After all, he went for early assembly elections in October 2009 and just about managed to form the government with outside support. He would not wish for a repeat.

by Jaideep Sarin (IANS)

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