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The Rediff Interview/Om Prakash Chautala
February 03, 2005
Haryana Chief Minister and Indian National Lok Dal President Om Prakash Chautala is convinced his party will return to power when the results for the state assembly election on February 27 are declared. The pundits may not share his optimism. The surveys may not support it. But Chautala is convinced of victory.
There is nervouness, however, in the INLD camp. Party leaders privately admit the going is tough. Congress leaders ask why Chautala is contesting from two constituencies -- Narvana and Rori -- if he is confident of victory.
In the past week, Chautala, who walks slowly, leaning heavily on a walking stick, has been on a whirlwind tour of the state. He has used helicopters and SUVs to reach out to the electorate in every part of the state.
Associate Editor Onkar Singh caught up with Chaudhrisaab in Rori.
Are you losing the election?
On the contrary, the INLD will win with a thumping majority. I can predict that we will get more than two-thirds of the seats. The response I have got at rallies in the last few weeks, I will not be surprised if my party's tally touches two-thirds majority. We will return to power. I can tell you that for sure.
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There is no vacancy for the Haryana Chief Minister's post?
(Laughs) Haryana has no vacancy for the post of chief minister. I am the chief minister now. I will assume office after the results are announced. So where is the vacancy you are talking about.
Bhajan Lal says he will be the next chief minister. Is there any weight in that claim?
I have addressed a public rally, where I referred to the issue. Who is Bhajan Lal to say he will be chief minister? We know how the Congress party elects [its] chief ministers. Bhupendra Singh Huda and Shamsher Singh Surjewala are in the fray. It is Congress President Sonia Gandhi who will be chief minister if the Congress comes to power.
There are allegations of corruption against your family members. Your opponents claim this will bring your government down.
The allegations of corruption against my family members are baseless. Those who were making the charges stand exposed. Can they deny selling party tickets for money? Can they deny that some party tickets were sold for Rs 5 crore each?
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What about charges that you promote your family in politics?
I have been asked this question in almost all interviews. Those who accuse me of advancing my sons and relatives in politics are the ones who ask for tickets for their family members. The whole of Haryana is my family. When it comes to the Congress, the entire Haryana is their families. Bhajan Lal has got a nomination from Adampur, his son Chandar Mohan is a Congress candidate from Kalka and he has secured a seat for his nephew.
Former Haryana chief minister Bansi Lal got tickets for his sons -- Surinder Singh and Ranbir Singh Mahendra. He got a ticket for his son-in-law as well. Shamsher Singh Surjewala got tickets for himself and his son. Navin Jindal got a ticket for his father O P Jindal.
Is that the reason you have denied tickets to your sons Ajay and Abhay?
No, this has nothing to do with strategy. Even the last time my sons had not contested the assembly election. Since I was elected from two seats and I had to resign from one, party workers and leaders decided that Abhay should contest from Rori.
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Gurgoan has benefited a lot from development works in five years. It has emerged as an IT hub and yet your party nominee is lagging in the electoral battle there?
This is not true. The work we have done in Gurgoan is unprecedented. We have a strong candidate in Gopi Chand Gehlot. Some people are deliberately spreading misinformation that we will lose in Gurgoan. We will win the seat with a huge margin. We are in a strong position. We will return to power with two-thirds majority.
If you get another term as chief minister, what will be your priorities?
There is no word like 'if' in my dictionary. I will return to power. That is for sure. We will continue the development work we undertook and make Haryana one of the best states.
The Congress has promised a job in each family to woo voters. What are you promising your electorate?
The Congress will like to take away the jobs created in five years. My father Chaudhari Devi Lal has done a lot for the farmers. We are continuing the good work. Each girl who gets married gets Rs 5001 from the state. Elders get a pension, the unemployed get an allowance till the time s/he gets a job. We believe in action and not mere promises.
Photograph: RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images
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