Uttar Pradesh assembly polls: Jayant Chaudhary looking to reap political harvest after farmers’ agitation

Published on Jan 11, 2022 12:37 AM IST

Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Jayant Chaudhary banking on revival of the Jat-Muslim chemistry to regain lost ground during the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls

Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Jayant Chaudhary at a mahapanchayat during the farmers’ agitation in the months leading up to the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls. (HT FILE PHOTO)
Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Jayant Chaudhary at a mahapanchayat during the farmers’ agitation in the months leading up to the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls. (HT FILE PHOTO)

The Uttar Pradesh assembly polls are being seen as a litmus test for Jayant Chaudhary, 43, who came to lead the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) after the party’s founder president and his father Ajit Singh died due to Covid-19 complications at the age of 82 on May 6, 2021 and he is now hoping to gain from the aftermath of the farmers’ agitation.

Jayant Chaudhary has the onus of recovering the ground that the party completely lost since 2014 Lok Sabha elections that were held in the wake of Muzaffarnagar riots that erupted between Jats and Muslims on August 27, 2013 and continued for around 20 days. The communal riots in which at least 60 people were killed and thousands displaced dealt the RLD’s traditional vote bank (Jat-Muslim) a severe blow.

The RLD had considerable influence in more than 40 Jat-dominant assembly constituencies falling under the Meerut, Saharanpur, Agra, Aligarh, Moradabad and Bareilly divisions, but in 2014, 2017 and 2019 elections Jats threw their weight largely behind the BJP while Muslims also turned their back on the RLD after the Muzaffarnagar riots.

The RLD drew a blank in 2014 and 2019 parliamentary elections. It won only one seat in the 2017 assembly elections. But the lone MLA, too, later joined the BJP in April-May 2018 after having been expelled from the RLD for cross-voting in favour of the BJP during the Rajya Sabha elections. The upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly polls are believed to be an existential battle for Jayant Chaudhary and his party.

Is the situation any different this time? The RLD believes the political climate to be favourable to it this time in west UP after the farmers’ agitation and the party is confident of reviving its fortunes.

“Things are very different this time and our party, under the able leadership of Jayant Chaudhary, is going to spring big surprises in the assembly elections,” RLD spokesman Anil Dubey said.

Much of the RLD’s confidence comes from the fact that it has emerged as the biggest political beneficiary of the farmers’ agitation in the region. The party consistently opposed the Centre’s three controversial farm laws (now repealed) and actively supported the farmers’ agitation that went on for around a year in the region.

Jayant Chaudhary was seen frequently sharing the dais with Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, who was leading the stir. Tikait is yet to declare whether he will campaign in favour of the RLD during the polls.

Amid the agrarian unrest in the region, Jayant organised a number of ‘bhai-chara’ rallies with a view to recreating the Jat-Muslim chemistry. The rallies drew huge crowd comprising both Jat and Muslim farmers of the region, giving an indication that the divide between the two communities had somewhat blurred.

Now, the RLD, traditionally a farmers’ party, is anxiously looking forward to reaping the political harvest out of the farmers’ agitation when the state goes to polls.

Second, the party also hopes to get sympathy votes due to the death of its founder president and former minister Ajit Singh in May last year.

Singh, the son of the ex-prime minister Chaudhary Charan Singh who is revered as farmers’ messiah, still enjoys respect in the community and the party is leaving no stone unturned to cash in on the same.

Third, the RLD believes that its alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the backdrop of renewed Jat-Muslim bonhomie facilitated by the farmers’ agitation will help consolidate its position in the elections.

Though 9% of the Jat population is concentrated in around two dozen districts in western UP, their number is not enough to ensure victory of the RLD unless Muslims who outnumber Jats in many districts come on board.

The RLD-SP alliance, being seen as a tough challenge to the ruling BJP in west UP, is relying on issues such as unemployment and price rise, apart from prevailing perceived agrarian unrest especially among cane farmers.

“Farmers and youths and women are at the centre of our campaign,” RLD national general secretary Trilok Tyagi said.

“The BJP promised to double farmers’ income by 2022 but it only ended up halving their income by increasing price of diesel and fertilisers while the unemployment rate is very high,” he said.

He further said that unlike the BJP that was widening the Hindu-Muslim divide “we were working for communal harmony in the region by reaching out to people through bhai-chara rallies”.

“The Jat-Muslim acrimony is a thing of the past now and this will work in our favour,” he claimed.

The RLD has already declared its manifesto, promising crore jobs, and 50% reservation to women in government jobs to woo youths and farmers and women on the one hand and features icons like BR Ambedkar, APJ Abdul Kalam and, of course, Chaudhary Charan Singh on posters and in the manifesto on the other.

Observers, however, point out that it may not be an easy ride for the RLD despite all the hype created by the purported agrarian unrest and its alliance with the SP. The BJP, according to them, still remains a dominant force in the region despite many odds.

“The RLD is, no doubt, a force to be reckoned with in several districts in western UP, but it is not strong enough to be able to make a successful dent in the BJP’s social engineering in the region,” said Sanjiv Kumar Sharma, a political scientist and former head of the department of political science in Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut.

“Moreover, the party has also lost much of its aura after the passing away of Ajit Singh and I do not think the RLD will get any sympathy vote because Singh died naturally at a ripe age,” he added.

He said farmers’ agitation could have worked in favour of the RLD had the Centre not repealed the three controversial laws.

“But now this is no longer an important issue. The same farmers who were not allowing BJP leaders to enter villages during the stir are now welcoming them with open arms,” he said.

Sharma said that though RLD had an alliance with the SP creating some hype, it was doubtful if the alliance would do any miracle.

“We know the SP-BSP-RLD all fought together in 2019 and it was then touted to be the most formidable alliance. But we also saw that both the RLD’s top leaders Ajit Singh and Jayant Chaudary lost in their den,” he said.

“On the contrary, the SP-RLD alliance may further consolidate Hindu votes in favour of the BJP if Muslims vote en bloc for the alliance,” he cautioned.

Tyagi said Jayant Chaudhary had worked hard to win hearts in the region by reaching out to them even during the pandemic and standing with them through thick and thin.


    Brajendra K Parashar is a Special Correspondent presently looking after agriculture, energy, transport, panchayati raj, commercial tax, Rashtriya Lok Dal, state election commission, IAS/PCS Associations, Vidhan Parishad among other beats.

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