The resignation of Akali Dal's lone Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet over a set of farm bills has raised pressure on BJP's Haryana ally Dushyant Singh Chautala, whose Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) is part of the state's coalition government.
Dushyant Chautala, the Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana, met with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar early this morning and later went into a huddle with his party's top leadership. The party has 10 MLAs in 90-seat Haryana and helped the BJP take power last year.
Shortly after Harsimrat Kaur Badal quit the government, the opposition Congress posted a tweet taunting Dushyant Chautala. "Dushyant ji, following Harsimrat Kaur Badal you should have resigned at least from the Deputy CM post. You are more attached to your chair than farmers....", tweeted Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
The JJP, which has opposed the BJP's farm sector bills, shares many similarities with the Punjab-based Akali Dal.
Both the parties have a strong rural base in their respective states and also share close family ties. While opposing the farm ordinance, Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Badal, Harsimrat Kaur's husband, had called former deputy prime minister Devi Lal (the founder of INLD and Dushyant Chautala's great-grandfather) as one of the country's greatest farm leaders. It is also believed that the Badals played an important role in sealing the BJP-JJP alliance in Haryana.
The farmers' agitation has put Dushyant Chautala's JJP in a bind and it is being challenged to take a stand like the Akalis to keep its core constituency happy. The JJP has been backing the farm ordinances and accuses the opposition Congress of misleading the farmers. The Akali Dal shared similar views before the anger of Punjab farmers forced the party to revise its stand.
The September 10 lathi-charge on farmers during a protest rally in Haryana's Kurukshetra district has intensified problems for the JJP. Many farmers were badly injured and the opposition accused the government of suppressing the farmers' voice.
"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)," Dushyant Chautala 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 is dissatisfaction among most of the party's 10 MLAs". Mr Babli is the second JJP MLA after Ram Kumar Gautam to go public against Dushyant Chautala. Last week, a video clip in which Mr Babli appeared to be directing serious allegations against power department officials was widely shared on social media.
While Dushyant Chautala said a probe will be ordered into the lathi-charge on protesters, Haryana's home minister contradicted him by denying any use of force. "There was no lathi-charge by the police on farmers," minister Anil Vij said.
Sensing political damage, the JJP has now issued an apology for the lathi-charge in Kurukshetra. "JJP apologises to the farmers subjected to lathi-charge. JJP was always with the farmers...and interests of the farmers are always supreme for the party. After watching the video of the lathi-charge on farmers, the first thing we did was to condemn the incident as it was wrong," Digvijay Chautala, the younger brother of Dushyant Chautala and chief of the youth wing of the JJP, said on Thursday.
Dushyant Chautala has not publicly opposed the farm ordinances passed in the Lok Sabha yesterday. Though JJP has been facing dissent within the party and also a rift with its alliance partner, party is seriously on the backfoot for the first time.