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A family-dominated party was not expected to have done anything else but repose its faith in the dynasty even when its top leaders were sent behind the bars. Head of the Indian National Lok Dal and former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and his son and party secretary general Ajay Singh Chautala are currently in Tihar jail following their conviction in the JBT Teachers scam. When the party has been effectively left headless, its other leaders have reaffirmed their faith in the 78-year-old senior Chautala, even as his own political future depends on the quantum of the sentence which is to be announced on January 22.
If the court sentences them for two years or more, both the leaders will be disqualified from contesting elections from the date of conviction till six years from the date of release under section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act. Further, the Election Commission guidelines say even if a person is on bail but his appeal against conviction is pending, he remains disqualified. Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which is applicable against the Chautalas, provides for imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than one year but may extend to seven years.
That's not the only cause of worry for the Chautalas. They are already in a soup over yet another case of amassing wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income. A CBI chargesheet in this case has already been filed not only against Chautala but also his sons, Ajay and Abhay. In yet another case, the CBI has alleged that top bureaucrats, in connivance with Chautala, tweaked the rules and criteria, to favour certain candidates in the Haryana Civil Services recruitment.
Chautalas' loss of credibility would benefit the other two stakeholders in Haryana — the Congress led by Bhupinder Singh Hooda and the Haryana Janhit Congress led by Kuldip Bishnoi. It remains to be seen who would gain the most at their cost.