BJP’s Rajput trouble comes to the fore in western U.P.

Known to be on the BJP’s side, a section of the community is upset at being sidelined in ticket distribution in the Brij belt of the State

April 13, 2024 10:34 pm | Updated 10:34 pm IST - GHAZIABAD

A vehicle with a hoarding of BJP candidate Om Kumar during a campaign in the Nagina Lok Sabha constituency area ahead of the general elections, Bijnor district in Western Uttar Pradesh on April 6, 2024.

A vehicle with a hoarding of BJP candidate Om Kumar during a campaign in the Nagina Lok Sabha constituency area ahead of the general elections, Bijnor district in Western Uttar Pradesh on April 6, 2024. | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

With less than a week left for the first round of Lok Sabha polls in eight seats of western Uttar Pradesh, caste is casting its shadow on Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindutva juggernaut.

Miffed at being sidelined in ticket distribution at the expense of Gurjars and Jats, and their self-esteem being crushed by irresponsible remarks from BJP MPs and MLAs, Thakur leaders are holding panchayats across the region. Going by the footfall, it appears that the discontent is taking electoral shape.

After conducting panchayats in Saharanpur, Meerut, and Ghaziabad, a Kshatriya Swabhiman Sammelan has been scheduled in Sardhana that falls in Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha seat. This has come after BJP leader and Union Minister Parshottam Rupala’s statement created widespread ruckus in Gujarat.

Thakurs or Rajputs constitute around 10-13% of the State population and their vote could affect the prospects of a party in Ghaziabad, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Meerut, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Kairana, and Bijnor but this time the BJP hasn’t fielded any Thakur candidate from these seats. The only exception is Thakur Sarvesh Singh from Moradabad whom the party has repeated despite losing in 2019. The party and its ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) have focused their attention on Jats and Gurjars in Brij region.

Discontent surfaces

The discontent surfaced when a night before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Meerut, the cavalcade of Muzaffarnagar MP and Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan was attacked in a Thakur-dominated village. It was seen as the work of the supporters of Sangeet Som, a firebrand Thakur leader who surprisingly lost the 2022 Assembly polls from Sardhana. His supporters hold Mr. Balyan responsible for his electoral loss two years ago.

Both the leaders emerged out of the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 but Mr. Balyan made bigger political strides than Mr. Som. The latter was seeking the Lok Sabha ticket from Meerut but his ambition was cut short by the entry of celebrity candidate Arun Govil. Adding salt to the wounds, members of the community feel that General (retd.) V.K. Singh, two-time MP from Ghaziabad, was forced to sit out of the election. They see Mr. Modi’s road show in Ghaziabad as a move to mollify the disgruntled community.

Also read | BSP eyes revival of Muslim-Dalit combination in Western U.P.

Thakur Puran Singh, president of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, has taken up the cause of the caste. Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Singh, whom the locals describe as close to the Samajwadi Party, said: “It has become a matter of our self-esteem. The Thakur youth were nursing anger against the BJP since the party has allowed Gurjar control over the Kshatriya identity of Raja Mihir Bhoj.” Kshatriya kings, he said, belong to all but the way a community was allowed to put its identity before the king’s name was unacceptable. “Also, the way BJP MPs and MLAs of Haryana and U.P. participated in the Gurjar panchayats where Rajputs are targeted, hurt us. Now, Parshottam Rupala has added fuel to the fire by his statements.”

Mr. Singh said the party has sidelined Rajputs in ticket distribution and rewarded those who humiliated the community. “Lord Ram is in our hearts. If the party thinks it has brought him back, it is mistaken.”

However, M.S. Tanwar, president of Rashtriya Kshatriya Mahasabha, said Rajputs were “by and large with the BJP”. “There are local issues and personal egos and we hope the party will provide proper representation to all the communities,” he said.

‘Unhappy with party’

Another source in the Mahasabha said that the community was not happy with the way former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brijbhushan Sharan Singh’s ticket from Kaiserganj has been put on hold. The sense is that his ticket will be announced by the BJP after April 19 when the party is done canvassing Jat votes in the sugarcane belt of the State.

Meanwhile, supporters of Samajwadi Party and Congress are waiting for their respective leadership to make use of the situation. A senior SP leader said the party was waiting for Ramzan to get over. “We still have a week left, enough time for Akhileshji to cover the eight seats going to the polls,” the leader added.

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