Jats punch above weight, turn power players in west UP poll arena | India News


Their firepower is way above their numerical strength. No party can afford to ignore them in west UP. When PM Narendra Modi announced Bharat Ratna for tallest Jat leader Chaudhary Charan Singh, it was a bid to win over the community the BJP had been trying to since 2014.
Besides, despite its facile wins in the state in the past four elections, BJP was desperate to have Chaudhary’s grandson Jayant on its side.It finally managed to do so. The agrarian Jats make up for barely 2% of UP electorate but by their sheer influence, they decide the outcome in 10 west UP seats. Their financial muscle means they influence other castes in the region.
Jats were consolidated into an influential voting class by former Chaudhary, a former PM and ex-CM of UP, who formed Bhartiya Kranti Dal in late 1960s, after leaving Congress. After his death, Chaudhary’s legacy was taken forward by his son and former RLD chief late Ajit Singh. But BJP’s rise in 2014 LS elections meant decimation of RLD with both party founder Ajit and his son, Jayant Chaudhary, losing in Baghpat and Mathura, respectively. In 2019 LS elections, too, the duo faced another rout—in Muzaffarnagar and Baghpat.

Analysts said BJP found strong support among Jats after the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots when the community fell out with the Muslims.
BJP’s bid to woo Jats continued and before the 2022 assembly polls, Modi laid the foundation of a university named after Jat freedom fighter Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh in Aligarh. Later, CM Yogi Adityanath invoked Gokul Singh, a 17th-century Jat warrior who fought Mughal king Aurangzeb; his observation was not off the cuff. A revered figure even in neighboring Haryana, Gokul was resurrected by BJP to renew its 2017 script of consolidating Jats.
However, BJP’s grip on Jat votes loosened a bit. ‘Our empirical study shows 91% of the community supported BJP in 2019. This dropped to 71% in 2022 assembly polls,’ said Prof AK Verma, director of Centre for Study of Society and Politics. He blamed the erosion on farmers’ protest and demand for reservation for Jats.
The vote share of RLD surged from 1.8% in 2017 to 2.9% in 2022 assembly elections. Its tally, too, rose from one to eight MLAs. Alarm bells rang when SP-backed RLD candidate Madan Bhaiyya defeated BJP’s Rajkumari Saini in Khatauli bypoll in Dec 2022, raising the party’s strength to nine MLAs. This was in sharp contrast to what happened between 2009 and 2014, when RLD seats dropped from five to zero and vote share plummeted from 2.5% to 0.9%.
Jayant had started flexing muscles while being an SP ally, especially during the 2022 assembly polls. Thanks to the alliance, RLD managed to consolidate Jat and Muslim votes on many seats.
Sources said that the BJP think tank went back to the drawing board to minimize the dent SP-RLD combine — a key constituent of INDIA bloc — could have inflicted in the forthcoming polls.
BJP came up with a possible solution: wean RLD away from the opposition group and make it a prominent constituent of NDA. Sources said that a prominent Jat leader, who has also been a governor of a state, came in handy. He, along with a young minister in the Modi cabinet, worked behind the curtains to convince Jayant to break ties with SP and join the saffron fold.
Finally, BJP made an offer Jayant couldn’t refuse—besides Bharat Ratna to the patriarch, RLD was to get two ministerial berths in UP cabinet, two LS seats and a berth in the state’s upper House. Jayant, who is a Rajya Sabha member with SP support, might get a berth in Modi cabinet if NDA forms govt.
RLD national secretary Anupam Mishra said party decisions were driven by ground-level feedback. “We decided to align with BJP to mobilize different communities,” he said. RLD insiders maintain the party also wanted to remain relevant in west UP while ‘striking the best possible deal’ with BJP.
RLD managed to send Yogesh Chaudhary, another Jat leader, to legislative council besides getting its Purkazi MLA Anil Kumar, a Dalit, inducted in UP cabinet. SP spokesperson Sudhir Panwar said BJP has been conspiring to split Jats and make them electorally irrelevant.
“We give adequate prominence to the community,” he said, adding that SP has fielded Harendra Malik from Muzaffarnagar and plans to field another Jat from Baghpat. Experts said RLD’s restricted influence in west UP has been prompting it to go in for ‘opportunistic’ politics, as pursued by party founder Ajit Singh. “Jayant too seems to consider that RLD is better off in alliance with BJP,” said Prof SK Pandey, head of political science department at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University.
He said that with BJP, RLD may lose Muslims, but it would gain ‘Hindu votes (OBC and Dalit included). The apparently split Jat vote would consolidate into one larger bloc and could pay off well in Punjab and Haryana,’ he noted.


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