Assembly polls: Jat backlash singes BJP in western Uttar Pradesh

The Bharatiya Janata Party appears to be fighting a losing battle in Western UP—where polling is due on February 11—to regain lost ground as Jats rally round RLD

PTI Photo
PTI Photo
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Vishwadeepak

“It hurts when people describe RLD as a party of Jats,” said Jayant Chaudhary in one of his election rallies in Western Uttar Pradesh. Declaring his mission to remove the ‘Jat tag’, he hoped that the party would be able to draw support from all sections of the people.


But no matter what the party general secretary’s wishes are, Jats continue to be the party’s mainstay and if the party hopes to improve significantly its tally of nine seats and 2.33% of the votes polled in 2012, Jats in Western Uttar Pradesh need to rally round the party.


Jat party leaders in the region are not just confident, they come across as cocky. “We know our weaknesses but we hope to grab 20-25 seats this time…our fight is not with the BJP but with Modi Ji and we hope to cash in on his growing unpopularity,” said an RLD leader in Bulandshahr.


Pushpendra Chaudhary, leader of the Jat Arakshan Samiti, explains why. Two dozen Jats, he recalls, lost their lives during the Jat agitation in Haryana for reservation in government jobs. Several hundred Jats, he claims, are still languishing in prison. But neither the BJP government in Haryana nor the Centre did anything except paying lip-service, he says bitterly. It’s pay-back time, he adds.


“We had met BJP president Amit Shah and also the Prime Minister, following which the Government formed a committee under the chairmanship of Venkaiah Naidu. But while the committee was announced in March-April, 2015, not a single meeting has been held yet,” claims Chaudhary.


Former Union Minister Sompal Shashtri told NH, “Jats do feel let down by the BJP; they did not find anyone in the BJP with whom they could communicate.”

Photo by Vishwa Deepak/National Herald
Photo by Vishwa Deepak/National Herald
RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary (seated, centre) at a party rally in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh on February 3

The popular refrain among Jats in the region is that while RLD may not be crowned king, it could play the role of king-maker if it manages to win 30 of the 140 seats in Western UP. A Jat leader told National Herald, “We are far more likely to secure 20-25 seats but that will be enough for us to have a Deputy Chief Minister in Lucknow”.


“Becoming a kingmaker would depend on numbers but there is no doubt about Ajit Singh’s ability to switch sides. Whichever party gets the numbers to form a Government, irrespective of ideological differences, he will not hesitate to join,” says Shashtri with a wry smile.


BJP has given tickets to a large number of influential Jat leaders in an apparent bid to minimise the damage but the stratagem is perceived as too little and too late to recover lost ground, feel political observers.

“Becoming a kingmaker would depend on numbers but there is no doubt about Ajit Singh’s ability to switch sides. Whichever party gets the numbers to form a Government, irrespective of ideological differences, he will not hesitate to join.”
Sompal Shastri

Besides the call for supporting RLD from Khap panchayats and Yashpal Malik of All India Jat Reservation Agitation Committee, several Jat leaders from neighbouring Haryana and Rajasthan including independent MLA from Rajasthan Hanuman Beniwal are camping in Western UP to campaign for RLD.


There are also a large number of groups on social media and on WhatsApp busy issuing appeals to Jats to vote for RLD candidates.


“Eastern and Western Uttar Pradesh are completely different from each other in culture, language, food habits and way of thinking. So, it is difficult to make a sweeping remark about winning party or combination,” says political commentator Rasheed Kidwai. And he does not rule out the vital role that small parties can play after the results are out.

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