In a big blow to the INLD, the Haryana Assembly Speaker on Tuesday removed Abhay Chautala as the Leader of Opposition after the strength of party legislators dropped to 15 following resignations of two of its leaders.
"I have removed Abhay Singh Chautala as the Leader of Opposition as the number of MLAs of his party has come down from 17 to 15. The number of MLAs of their party came down to 15 after I accepted resignation of two INLD MLAs Ranbir Gangwa and Kehar Singh Rawat," Speaker Kanwar Pal told PTI.
Hathin MLA Rawat joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in New Delhi on Monday. Earlier this month, one of Indian National Lok Dal's senior leaders and sitting MLA Gangwa too had joined the BJP.
"Gangwa and Rawat had submitted their resignations to my office before they joined the BJP. As there were holidays in between... I accepted their resignations now," he said.
The speaker said that he will write to the state president of the Congress party, which has a strength of 17 MLAs in the 90-member House and has emerged as the principal opposition now, to forward the name of their party legislator so that new Leader of Opposition can be named.
In the 90-member Assembly, ruling BJP's strength rose to 48 MLAs after the recent Jind bypoll win while Congress has 17 members.
After Gangwa and Rawat joined the BJP, the INLD's strength dropped to 15 members. One member each belongs to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), five are Independents while one seat fell vacant after the demise of INLD leader Jaswinder Singh Sandhu earlier this year.
INLD secretary general Abhay Chautala had resigned as the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly on Saturday and sought disqualification of four of party legislators who were supporting fledgling Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) for alleged anti-party activities.
When asked about Abhay Chautala's resignation on Saturday, the Speaker said that Gangwa and Rawat had submitted their resignations much earlier and after accepting these he had acted on this and removed the senior INLD leader as the Leader of Opposition.
Abhay Chautala had told reporters on Saturday that he has demanded disqualification of MLAs – Naina Chautala, Anoop Dhanak, Pirthi Nambardar and Randeep Phogat – who have sided with the JJP. He had also sought disqualification of Gangwa.
When asked to comment on what will be the fate of those INLD MLAs who were supporting the JJP, the Speaker said, "There is a process for this which will be initiated. These four MLAs will be asked to clear their stance with regards to JJP. If they say they have joined JJP, then appropriate action will be taken, but if they deny, then Abhay Chautala will be asked to give proof to substantiate his claims".
Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala -- the elder son of Abhay Chautala's brother Ajay Chautala -- launched the JJP last year and the 30-year-old's supporters are even projecting him as the next chief minister.
The INLD had suffered a heavy defeat in the Jind bypolls in January, with party candidate Umed Singh Redhu forfeiting his security deposit. Days later, its nine-month-old ally, Bahujan Samaj Party, parted ways.
The INLD, founded by late deputy prime minister Devi Lal and headed by former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, has been out of power in Haryana for over 14 years now.
The INLD is going through crisis when the Lok Sabha polls are around the corner. The 10 Lok Sabha seats of Haryana go to polls on May 12.
(With PTI inputs)