Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha and Haryana Assembly polls, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) has plunged into a crisis with Om Prakash Chautala clan entering into a feud over the leadership of the party in the election year.

With 83-year-old Chautala serving 10 years imprisonment for his role in a recruitment scam along with his elder son Ajay Singh Chautala, the party leadership had fallen to the former chief minister’s younger son Abhay Singh Chautala who is currently serving as the leader of Opposition.

But Abhay’s leadership is facing a challenge from his elder brother Ajay’s two sons, Dushyant Chautala, who is member of Parliament from Hisar, and Digvijay Chautala, who were given the leadership of party’s youth and student wings respectively.

Supporters of Ajay and his two sons have been making the case for declaring Dushyant as INLD’s CM candidate for the Assembly polls as they believe he is more popular and has a better connect with the young voters than Abhay.

This rift over the CM candidature turned into an embarrassment recently when a group of youths indulged in hooting at INLD’s Gohana rally on 7 October when Abhay was speaking, while there were cheers for Dushyant as he spoke. All this happened in the presence of the senior Chautala who was out on parole.

Taking a serious view of this, senior Chautala warned of action against this act of indiscipline and the INLD chief dissolved the youth wing of the party and the national and state units of the Indian National Students Organisation (INSO).

“Both wings of the party were found to be lacking in discipline and commitment to the ideals of the party. While the youth wing failed to play its role during the Gohana rally of 7 October, 2018, the INSO was found indulging in blatant antiparty activities. It is also accused of entering into a conspiracy with anti-party forces to disrupt the above-said rally and smear the name of INLD,” the INLD said in a statement.

Those seen supporting Ajay and his sons were also removed from various positions in the INLD and even Hisar MP Dushyant and his younger Digvijay were suspended from the primary membership of the party.

Ever since, both Dushyant and Digvijay have been rather defiant and alleging a conspiracy within the party to target those linked to their father Ajay. They have questioned the disciplinary action and the show-cause notice given to them. In fact, Dushyant has raised a banner of revolt against the party’s disciplinary committee, which is probing the accusations of indiscipline against him. He has written to the INLD disciplinary committee raising questions on its functioning and has sought evidence against him for anti-party activities.

In a letter addressed to the committee’s chairman Sher Singh Badshami through the party’s office secretary, Dushyant alleged that the committee was not following rules of natural justice by not providing him with evidence of charges against him and not giving him an opportunity of being heard.

On his part, Digvijay has alleged that a conspiracy has been hatched by some party members to remove the two brothers from the party.

INSO chief Digvijay even refused to accept the decision taken by his grandfather to dissolve the organisation. “INSO will continue working till I get any signal from my father, Ajay Singh Chautala,” he said.

At the same time, the two brothers have been holding meetings with party workers and apparently getting good support, especially from the young supporters of the INLD.

Playing down the dissolution of INLD’s youth and students’ wings headed by his nephews Dushyant and Digvijay, the leader of Opposition Abhay denied any differences with the duo but said discipline was supreme in the party.

“There are no differences with Dushyant (and Digvijay), they are our children. However, discipline is our party’s biggest strength. If any person violates that, party will take action,” Abhay said while justifying the action taken against two wings headed by the two sons of his elder brother, Ajay.

Taking a dig at the INLD, Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Haryana health minister Anil Vij said the Opposition party is on the verge of split as Abhay Chautala is denying space to his two nephews in the party.

Sources said the Chautala- Dushyant meeting, where other family members were present too, ended abruptly with Dushyant making a hasty exit as soon as his uncle Abhay, with whom he has a family feud, arrived there.

All eyes are now on Dushyant and Digvijay’s father Ajay, serving imprisonment with his father, who is likely to be out on parole soon. As there appears little possibility of peace between the two sides in this “war of succession” between Abhay and his nephew Dushyant, a possibility of a split in the party is not being ruled out.

The ongoing family feud could dent the INLD’s attempt to capture power in the state after 15 long years. By projecting itself as an alternative to the ruling BJP and the Congress, the INLD had hit the ground to garner support in order to come back to power. But the latest crisis has hit the party founded by late Chaudhary Devi Lal hard.