Chandigarh, Jan 16 (IANS) The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Haryana's main opposition party, received a rude jolt as its top leadership was convicted and arrested in the JBT (junior basic training) teachers' recruitment scam Wednesday in New Delhi.
INLD president and former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, his son and legislator Ajay Chautala and another sitting legislator Sher Singh Barshami, were arrested in New Delhi's Rohini court complex after being convicted by a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in the recruitment scam.
The court also pronounced another 52 people guilty in a case related to corruption in the recruitment of over 3,000 teachers over a decade ago.
The conviction and arrest of the top INLD leaders could not have come at a worse time for the party, which was in poll mode in Haryana in preparation for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, as the term of the 15th Lok Sabha is set to end in May this year.
Assembly elections in Haryana are due just a little after the general elections, in Oct 2014.
The ruling Congress government in Haryana led by Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had earlier been on the back foot, embroiled in a series of scams and controversies, including the Robert Vadra-DLF land deal, the Gopal Kanda episode, a series of rape cases in the state and rising incidents of crime.
The arrest of the Chautalas has suddenly rejuvenated the Congress.
Hooda told the media Wednesday that the court's judgment showed that the law of the land prevailed.
Haryana's Parliamentary Affairs Minister Randeep Singh Surjewala said that the wrong-doing of the Chautala government (1999-2005) had been exposed by the verdict.
"This goes to prove that if you indulge in corruption and favouritism, the law will catch up with you," Surjewala said.
Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) leader Kuldip Bishnoi said that the judgment proved that no one was above the law.
"Even the Hooda government is indulging in open loot with land scams and other controversies. It will meet the same fate," Bishnoi said.
The INLD remained cautious, though defiant, in reactions to the sudden development.
Chautala's younger son, Abhey Chautala, in a statement along with the state INLD president Ashok Arora said the party would appeal against the Rohini court order in a higher court, once it got a copy of the judgment.
Abhey Chautala, who became the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president recently in controversial circumstances said that "the truth would soon come out".
He said the reaction of the Congress leadership (on the Rohini court judgment) showed that they were shaken by the growing popularity of the INLD in the state and were trying to divert the attention of the public from corruption scams worth hundreds of crores in which the Congress government in the state and the centre were involved.
He alleged that the UPA government at the centre was misusing the CBI to settle scores with political opponents.
The court will pronounce the sentence Jan 22.
The arrested leaders were sent to Tihar Jail.
The CBI had formally charged the father-son duo and others June 6, 2008, in connection with the scam that took place in 1999-2000 when Chautala was chief minister of Haryana.
Over 3,000 teachers were to be recruited in the state and Chautala had pressurised a senior official, Sanjeev Kumar, to change the list of selected candidates by fudging the marks of certain favourites.
Later, Sanjeev Kumar went to the Supreme Court and submitted before it the list of the candidates originally selected.
The official also alleged that money had changed hands in the recruitment scam.
The Supreme Court directed the CBI to investigate the matter, especially the bribery charges.
The federal investigating agency in its chargesheet said forged documents were used to appoint the teachers.
Chautala claimed that he was being victimised by political rivals.
Son of former deputy prime minister Devi Lal, Chautala is the leader of the opposition in the Haryana assembly.
The INLD was earlier part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Chautala and his two sons -- Ajay and Abhey -- are legislators in the Haryana assembly.