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Controversy and Chautala - old friends meet again

Chandigarh, Jan 22, 2013 (IANS): 14:19 IST
Convicted and condemned to prison for 10 years, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) president and former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala is likely to end up spending most of his time fighting court cases.

Chautala, who was sentenced by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in New Delhi's Rohini Tuesday along with his elder son and INLD secretary general Ajay Chautala, is no stranger to controversies. His conviction and sentencing in the JBT (junior basic trained) teachers' recruitment scam in Haryana is, perhaps, the harshest punishment to any big-time politician by any court in the country.

Chautala, 78, son of former deputy prime minister Devi Lal, remained chief minister of Haryana four times - his tenure spanning from six days to six years. He remained chief minister for six years (1999-2005) in two terms.

However, Chautala never enjoyed the same political status that his father Devi Lal had attained in state and national politics.

In the present circumstances, Chautala and his son will not be able to contest elections in future until their conviction is reversed by a higher court.

In the JBT scam, Chautala and others were convicted for bribery charges and tampering with lists to accommodate their favourites and those who had paid money to get recruited as teachers in Haryana's government schools. The recruitment was done for over 3,200 teachers in 1999-2000, when Chautala was chief minister.

He and his family are facing trial in two other cases in Delhi courts. One case is that of disproportionate assets of hundreds of crores and another one relates to a recruitment scam in the Haryana Civil Services (HCS).

Even before he became an active politician, Chautala was disowned by his father Devi Lal after he was allegedly caught at the Delhi airport in 1977 while trying to smuggle wristwatches worth Rs.100,000.

As chief minister in 1990, Chautala was accused of shielding senior police officer S.P.S. Rathore in the Ruchika Girotra molestation case. The charge was levelled against Chautala by Ruchika's father. The girl had committed suicide later.

In 1990, Haryana's Meham assembly seat hit national headlines owing to large-scale violence as Chautala allegedly tried to force his victory there. The election on this seat was postponed thrice.

His sons, Ajay Chautala and Abhay Chautala, have had their own set of controversies.

Abhay Chautala was in the news recently after he controversially got elected as the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) president. His election led to India being suspended from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Indian boxers too have been banned from participating in international events for now.
Ajay Chautala is facing charges of disproportionate assets.

The conviction and sentencing in the JBT scam could not have come at a worse time for the Chautalas and the INLD. The party and its leaders were already in poll mode for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which were to be followed by the Haryana assembly election.

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