One of the takeaways from the Uttar Pradesh polls is Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and its leader Chaudhary Jayant Singh finding some of its lost mojo in the western part of the State.
Reduced to one seat in 2017, the party, riding on the farmers’ agitation and Jat-Muslim consolidation, bagged eight seats out of 33 it contested in alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) and its vote share was more than the Congress.
The alliance won four out of six seats in Muzaffarnagar, the centre of farmers’ agitation against the contentious agriculture laws. Three of these were won by the RLD candidates. In Shamli, the alliance made a clean sweep on the three seats, two of which are won by the RLD. In Baghpat, the party won one out of three seats. In the Baraut seat of the district, it has challenged the result after a photo finish. Party workers have alleged foul play and the police had to fire tear gas shells to control them. The party won the Purkazi reserved seat in Muzaffarnagar and lost a cliffhanger in Nehtaur in Bijnor.
Also read: U.P. Election Results 2022 live updates
Observers said the results had proved why the BJP was serenading Mr. Singh before the polls.
They said the victory of Ghulam Mohammad in Siwal Khas against the Jat candidate of the BJP proved that Jats did vote for Muslim candidates who fought on the party’s symbol. However, they also said that in the face of an aggressive campaign of the alliance, other castes, particularly those who voted for the BSP, consolidated behind the BJP.
‘Jat-Muslim consolidation worked’
“It is a disappointing result for us. We were expecting 20 plus seats. Having said that Jayant has emerged as the figure in west U.P.,” said Sompal Shastri, senior party ideologue. The positive, he stated, was that the Jat-Muslim consolidation worked.” There had been some problems in ticket distribution but there were other compulsions as well that needed to be factored in. We will discuss it once we hear from the ground.”
On the possibility of shifting towards the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) for the Lok Sabha polls, Mr. Shastri said Mr. Singh should stay apart, considering the kind of social consolidation he had been able to achieve.
Party sources said Mr. Singh might seek a Rajya Sabha seat and help in consolidating a third front.
The party’s candidates have scalped some of the top faces of the ruling party. Cane Minister Suresh Rana was humbled by RLD's Muslim candidate in Thana Bhawan and firebrand MLA Umesh Malik, a confidant of BJP’s Jat face Sanjeev Balyan, faced defeat in Budhana. The RLD also helped SP candidate Atul Pradhan outwit BJP’s another Hindutva face Sangeet Som in the Sardhana seat of Meerut.
The good performance was limited to the sugarcane belt. In the potato belt, it bagged only the Sadabad seat in Hathras, where its candidate, Pradeep Chaudhary, outclassed BJP’s heavyweight Ramvir Upadhyay. Mr. Chaudhary was the person who provided cover to Mr. Singh, when he was lathi-charged by the police when he went to meet the kin of the Hathras victim.
‘Jat vote was divided’
A senior Jat leader, requesting anonymity, said the Jat vote was divided this time. “In three-four districts, it helped the RLD candidates, in others it backed the BJP. I feel the Opposition didn’t do its homework properly. Otherwise, it could have dented the BJP further. Maant in Mathura and Iglas and Khair in Aligarh are examples of poor selection of candidates.”
Interestingly, preliminary reports suggest that the party could not consolidate the Most Backward castes and Dalits behind it as slogan of ‘bhaichara’ remained limited to Jats and Muslims. The refrain that 36 communities were backing the agitation didn’t find traction.
Observers said prima facie, the shift in the BSP’s non-Jatav Dalit vote towards the BJP proved decisive, particularly in villages with a Muslim population.
Farmers’ stir impact
Dharmendra Malik, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) media in charge, said the impact of the farmers’ agitation could be seen in west U.P. “but as the Dalit vote shifted to the BJP, its outcome could not be seen in terms of seats.” For the poor, he observed, issues were secondary and hunger was the primary concern. “There was anger against the BJP but the Opposition could not cash it properly. The margins of victory in many seats is very small,” said Mr. Malik. “I believe ration, law, and order, and female voters’ support played a big role in the BJP finding traction in west U.P.”
A senior BKU leader said the apolitical organisation should not have shifted in favour of the alliance. “We lost a bit of our apolitical character. Now, we will have to bring ourselves back to the centre,” he added.