Battle for UP: Why Jat votes are important for Akhilesh
The Jat and farmers votes in western UP, a part of which is polling on Thursday, are extremely crucial for Akhilesh Yadav, who is making a concerted attempt to return to power in these elections
The Jat and farmers votes in western Uttar Pradesh, a part of which is polling on Thursday, are extremely crucial for Akhilesh Yadav, who is making a concerted attempt to return to power in these elections.
Though jats have a population of over 2 per cent only, the community not only dominates the politics of western UP but also prevails over the farmers of other communities.
Western Uttar Pradesh has a total of 136 seats -- 58 are polling today -- and the BJP had won 109 seats in 2017.
The BJP has been enlisting the support of Jats since 2014. The 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots had driven a deep wedge between the Jats and Muslims in the region and the BJP benefitted the most due to communal polarisation.
The year-long farmers' agitation, topped by the mowing down of four farmers by a SUV owned by a Union minister in Lakhimpur, has antagonised the farmers where the BJP is concerned.
The Muslim-Jat divide has also filled up to an extent because a large number of farmers happen to be Muslims too.
The Samajwadi Party had fared poorly in this region in 2017 and could win only two seats in the first phase.
With the change in scenario, Akhilesh is now looking to make maximum gains -- which will lead to maximum losses for BJP -- in this region.
He has teamed up with the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), which has also been working overtime to re-establish connect with farmers.
The Samajwadi Party and RLD have been repeatedly reminding Jats of the agricultural distress to make them switch their vote.
The absence of SP MP Mohd Azam Khan, who is in jail, has also come as a blessing in disguise for SP since he is believed to have openly protected the Muslims during the Muzaffarnagar riots.
The tacit support of farmer leaders like Rakesh Tikait who have appealed to their community to 'defeat and punish BJP', is also helping the SP-RLD alliance.
Akhilesh, in his speeches, has been promising sops to farmers -- from higher MSP to free power to compensation for farmers who died during the agitation and also a memorial for them.
The BJP, on the other hand, has been raising the spectre of communal riots and deterioration in law and order if the SP returns to power. It has also played the 'Hindu First' card to alienate Jats from the Muslim farmers.
Akhilesh knows that this phase of elections where Jats dominate is crucial because success here will give him a much-needed push in the race to reach the majority mark in the state assembly.
Western UP has more than one-third of the total seats and Jats rule the political mood here.
"It is the west where the sun sets and this time, the BJP's sun will set in the west. They took a lead last time in 2017 from here and then betrayed the farmers during the agitation. We have made promises and we will fulfil them," said Akhilesh.