Apprehensive that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was making inroads among ‘Jat’ voters after September’s communal riots at Muzaffarnagar, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Chaudhary Ajit Singh pledged to put up a “secular front” to fight “the most critical political battle of his life” at a rally to mark late Chaudhary Charan Singh’s 111th birth anniversary in the historic township of Meerut.
In what is seen as an exercise at testing the waters ahead of the 2014 general elections, Singh put up a big show of strength, ensuring the participation of political heavyweights including Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Janata Dal (U) president Sharad Yadav.
Countering BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s “attempts to polarize voters on religious lines ahead of the 2014 general elections” was the central theme at the rally, although none of them named either Modi or the BJP in their speeches.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said it was the challenge of “clash of ideologies” that faced the nation. “It will be a battle between the Gandhi and Godse ideologies in the 2014 elections”, Singh said.
Invoking the late Charan Singh’s legacy and goals of a caste-less and secular society, JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav said that the “blot of communalism” had to be eradicated from society.
“The nation faces a big crisis today. The challenge is to prevent the rise of people and parties that polarise voters and divide people along communal lines”, he said.
The RLD chief himself referred to the Muzaffarnagar incidents as a result of a “political conspiracy” and called upon the “kisans” to unite and demand their share in governance. “If communal parties succeed in plans to disturb the traditions of communal harmony in UP, the Jats will be left powerless”, he said.
Reiterating the UPA government’s commitment to provide reservation to ‘Jats’ in central government jobs, Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda referred to the various farmer-friendly schemes launched by his government. “In comparison, the Akhilesh Yadav government has done nothing for Kisans”, he said.
In a similar appeal, the RLD chief’s son Jayant Chaudhary called for a revival of the values initiated by his grandfather.