Uttar Pradesh: Is BJP rattling the Thakur throne?

While seemingly losing Jat support to the Congress in Haryana, the BJP had seemed assured of both Jat and Thakur support in western UP

Arun Govil on the campaign trail in Meerut (photo: @arungovil12/X)
Arun Govil on the campaign trail in Meerut (photo: @arungovil12/X)

Aas Mohd Kaif

Apparently sitting pretty in western Uttar Pradesh after conferring the Bharat Ratna on Chaudhary Charan Singh and winning over Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Jayant Chaudhary, the BJP now has a rethink on its hands thanks to black flag protests facing its candidates Sanjeev Balyan in Muzaffarnagar and Arun Govil in Meerut.

While seemingly losing Jat support to the Congress in Haryana, the BJP had seemed assured of the support of both Jats and Thakurs in western UP. However, the party is now clearly unable to take the Thakurs for granted.

Even a cursory look at the tour programmes of chief minister Yogi Adityanath and Union defence minister Rajnath Singh indicates that both are campaigning extensively in the region. While PM Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah have already addressed large rallies in Thakur-dominated areas, Singh is scheduled to address four more, and Adityanath several more before the first phase of polling on 19 April.

Thakurs mostly belong to the Kshatriya community and are historically descended from land owners of Rajput ancestry in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Rajputs, however, long believed to be a captive vote bank of the BJP in western UP, are now making no secret of their hostility towards the party.

The Kshatriya maha panchayat (mega gathering) at Nanauta in Saharanpur attracted some 50,000 Thakurs. As many as 121 people’s representatives, including both sitting and former MLAs, attended the maha panchayat, the organisers claimed. One of the resolutions adopted at the rally was to lend support to candidates who show the potential to defeat the BJP.

What has led to this seemingly drastic turnaround? One of the rally's key organisers, Thakur Puran Singh, complains of continued neglect by the BJP, claiming that as many as 80 Thakur leaders have been sidelined or dumped by the party since 2019 in UP, Rajasthan, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and other states. In short, 80 Thakur claimants for nomination to contest the Lok Sabha elections were ignored by the party.

“Thakurs are consistently being insulted by BJP leaders, but the party is taking no action against them," fumes Puran Singh, and declares that another maha panchayat is being organised which will be attended by 100 former MLAs and 50 former MPs. “We will teach the BJP a lesson this time,” he adds.

The grievances are not confined to political representation alone. There is no representation of Thakurs in the Ram Mandir Trust, he says. “Imagine ignoring the descendants of Suryavanshi Kshatriyas, the descendants of Shri Ram himself,” he adds.

Other grievances, including the deliberate distortion in text books about the community and its heroes have also not been addressed, Puran Singh complains.

Why has the BJP not fielded a Rajput candidate in Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddh Nagar (Noida), with 5 lakh and 4.5 lakh Thakur voters respectively, he asks. Similarly, he reels off names like Bijnaur, Muzaffarnagar, Kairana, Saharanpur, Meerut and Amroha, and wonders why not a single Thakur candidate made the cut in these constituencies. The only Thakur candidate fielded by the BJP is Kunwar Sarvesh Singh from Moradabad, adds Akhil Bharatiya Kshatriya Mahasabha secretary Raghavendra Singh.

An interesting theory doing the rounds is that the apparent rebellion is being engineered by the BJP itself. Political observer and analyst Kunwar Devendra Singh explains, “Modi and Shah know that Thakurs will eventually return to the BJP at polling time. But by fielding candidates from other communities, the BJP is trying to make a dent in communities like Gurjars, Banias and Dalits."

It remains to be seen if the calculations work out, or whether they inflict any damage in the first three phases of the election in Uttar Pradesh.

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Published: 09 Apr 2024, 7:29 PM