As Haryana gears up for polls in the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections on May 12, the youngest Lok Sabha MP Dushyant Chautala speaks to Mint on why the country needs more younger candidates contesting elections. Chautala has split from his grandfather and former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala-led Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) to form a new party, Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) which is contesting on all ten seats in Haryana in alliance with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
It would be your first national election after the split in the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).
We have the cadre and they (INLD) have the stage. The work has to be done by the cadre. We do not have popular faces, but even INLD did not have. It was only Chautala saab (former CM Om Prakash Chautala) and Doctor saab (former MP Dr Ajay Chautala). I have worked for five years and people have supported me. We are on the same flow as 2014, but with a better urban base than before.
Does JJP plan to break the old mould of its parent INLD?
We have already broken that mould when we contested the Jind by-election alone and won double the number of votes, INLD has ever won in Jind. We are no longer a rural party or a party which is restricted to just one community. In future politics, one cannot walk with just one community or one vote centre. Everybody needs to be taken along. This is what we have done in last six months and added people from all parts of the state.
How crucial are the young voters in deciding the electoral mandate in 2019?
Haryana is one of the youngest states in the country. Out of 1.80 crore voters, over 92 lakhs are below the age of 39 years. Everybody talks about youth, but nobody gives them representation. The JJP-AAP alliance has given seven seats to candidates below the age of 40. Our campaign has found resonance among students, young job seekers and sportspersons. We fielded a student leader who has been fighting for student rights for last 13 years in Rohtak against three-time MP Deepinder Hooda from Congress.
What are the main issues Haryana faces in these elections?
Unemployment level is among the worst in Haryana. People are still moving outside Haryana for jobs. Manesar, alone has one Industrial Model Township (IMT) which gives job to 1.75 lakh persons. Former CM Bhupinder Hooda (Congress) acquired 12,000 acre of land in his regime in Jhajjar to open a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to provide employment for 5 lakh new youth. Only three factories have opened till date. Gurgaon district has 17 lakh jobs. How many Haryanvis have got jobs there? Only 2-3 lakhs. This has to be increased. Maharashtra and Gujarat has done a good job by giving preference to their local youth in jobs. We have promised to give employment to 75% of our youngsters in the state.
The ruling BJP’s campaign is centered on PM Modi and it is banking on him to win majority again?
It is likely that CM Manohar Lal Khattar knows that the day the party starts to seek votes in his name, all candidates will lose their deposit. It has been a mere failure of the BJP-led government that Army had to be called in the state thrice in last five years to maintain law and order. So, they are banking on PM Modi. But, the rhetoric over surgical strikes has passed and people need a strong leader in their constituencies to raise their issues in Parliament. I have been an MP in opposition for five years and I know that if MP has the will, the work gets done.
Do you see a change in the perception of younger leaders in national politics?
The perception has changed. Political leaders of my age are entering politics. Omar Abdullah was 37, when he became CM of Jammu and Kashmir and Akhilesh Yadav was 33 when he became CM. They did not waste money on building statues of their own. They focused on development and what people needed. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has focused on education and health in Delhi. This is the kind of work that needs to be done. Haryana also needs to re-think.
There is criticism that your CM aspirations led to split in the parent INLD?
I have understood one thing in last five years. ‘Umar nai, honslon se kaam hote hain’. I became an MP when I was 25 years, 11 months old and I was walking into the Parliament in June in a T-shirt and jeans. The security guard asked me, MP saab kaun hai? Initially, people do not take you seriously. But the work I have done speaks for itself. Four new trains, 12 flyovers, 19 underpasses and CCTV cameras have been approved for Hisar. These development works have changed the mindset of urban voters. When BJP came into power in Haryana, they promised an airport in Hisar, where is it? BJP candidate’s (Brijendra Singh’s) father has been the Union Steel Minister (Birender Singh) and Hisar is the Steel capital of Haryana. But, not a single new unit has been set up in the state.
The ruling BJP government claims that sex ratio has improved in Haryana after PM’s Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign.
We are among the four states in the country which are unsafe for women. Gurgaon recently ranked among the 20 worst cities for working women. The CAG data shows that half of the total funds were spent on advertisement and promotions, which includes putting PM Modi’s picture everywhere. Are we educating the people or just promoting the PM? The party is busy trying to divide people on the lines of religion and caste. People are ready to give the answer to BJP in these Lok Sabha elections.
How would the alliance with AAP boost party’s’ winning prospects?
AAP helped us in gaining urban votes, especially residents of National Capital Region (NCR) who have been regularly touring Delhi and have seen the work being done there. In 2014 elections, AAP got a vote share of 5%, INLD got 30%. After the split, if we have lost even 5% of share, then we still have 25% vote share. So, if can capitalize on that 25% and increase it to 30-32%, then we can be hopeful of getting the highest number of votes. BJP’s vote share is bound to drop from 34% in 2014 to maybe, 28% or less now.
Why did you choose the poll symbol as ‘ chappal’?
In Delhi, jhadu (AAP’s poll symbol) wiped every political opponent from the state. Everyone has chappal in their feet, they would connect to it. We also took a cue from history. When Shri Ram was in vanvaas (exile), it was his khadag (footwear) that was kept on his seat as a symbol of his rule. Just like that, this khadag represents former CM Devi Lal’s footsteps, which would help us lead forward. The party has been named after him.