Other States

‘Disillusioned’ Jats leaving Modi bandwagon in western U.P.

It was with some strategy that the Uttar Pradesh BJP had last month organised a Kisan rally in Kharkhauda, an area on the outskirts of Meerut. The occasion was suicide of a farmer in that locality and the purpose was to express the party’s solidarity with farmers, hundreds of whom committed suicide in the State.

With a large number of chairs remaining empty, ironically, the rally ended up highlighting farmers’ anger with the party. In a region where ‘Jat’ and ‘farmer’ are interchangeable terms, this was sufficient reason for the State BJP leadership to get worried. According to the local party workers, the State BJP chief Lakshmikant Bajpayee was extremely unhappy at the low turn out.

But a reality check shows that there is indeed anger, in some instances extreme, disillusionment and sense of betrayal among the dominant Jat community which voted for Narendra Modi last year, breaking several past records.

“The situation has not changed for us a single bit. Of course, there are things which are controlled by the Samajwadi Party-led State government but it doesn’t look like Mr. Modi has done anything for us either,” says Yogindra Kumar, a Jat farmer in Goherni village of Shamli district.

Mr. Kumar says his community is ‘besieged’ and is going through ‘severe crisis’. The three problems which have merged in order to amplify the anger and grievance are non-payment of last year’s sugarcane arrears worth Rs. 1000 crore, absence of any visible response from the Modi government to loss due to destruction of wheat and other crops after untimely rain and hailstorm leading to hundreds of suicide and the “anti-farmer” Land Acquisition Bill.

“In this crisis, Jats expected Mr. Modi to intervene and do something to alleviate our plight. What came forward was only the stubborn stand to pass the land acquisition Bill and the pathetic call to farmers not to commit suicide which was extremely disappointing,” adds Mr. Kumar a former Air Force personnel who started farming after retirement in 1994.

Explaining the reasons for the anger in the dominant community against the Modi government, Sudhir Panwar of Kisan Jagriti Manch says, “Sugarcane farming is the lifeline for the Jats of western UP. Sugarcane farmers as well as the industry is in a big crisis but the Modi government didn’t do anything immediate and concrete to give relief to the sugarcane farmer.”

Absence of employment generation for which almost every Jat youth had backed Mr. Modi in the 2014 general election and the recent Supreme Court order striking down the Jat reservation have only increased the anger.

From Jats in Mathura to those preparing for sugarcane crop in Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, a random conversation with a cross section of the community shows reasons why even the party cadre is unhappy with the leadership and the government.

Jats are also angry against the Union Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Baliyan who they alleged had failed to do anything for them. Mr. Baliyan is the BJP MP from Muzaffarnagar. When contacted, a section of the local BJP leadership in Muzaffarnagar, expressed helplessness over the people’s anger.

Some of them even blamed ‘too much centralisation’ of decision-making process in the government for BJP MPs’ inability to lobby and push for the progress of the region.

“Jats support for the BJP in western UP enabled it to get 73 seats in the State. Their anger is a bad omen for us. The central leadership should do something about it,” said one BJP worker who didn’t want to be identified.

“A year after the unprecedented victory for us from this region, the Modi fanfare is on the decline; worse dissatisfaction with the Modi government is palpable on the streets. It's a bit difficult now to hear a voice on the streets still talking about achhe din except in jest and for poking fun at the promise which became a successful electoral mascot for Narendra Modi,” the BJP worker added.

Ravindra Chaudhary, a local Jat leader in Muzaffarnagar said the anger is also because of “whatever work was done by the Modi government has not reached to the people. Besides, Mr. Modi is not seen to be doing something concrete for the farmers.”

Many angry Jats were pretty vocal and rang the warning bell for the saffron party. “Modi got unprecedented number of votes because of the riots. Let there be elections right now and no Jat will vote for him. BJP will have serious trouble in the State polls if this situation continues. The BSP may end up being the unlikely beneficiary,” said Rampal Mandi another local Jat leader.

Amid the general mood of anger and disillusionment there are local BJP leaders who are dependent on polarisation of Jat votes to come back to the BJP.

“There is extreme anger among Jats and farmers but this is temporary,” said former head of a Muzaffarnagar village and a senior local leader of the BJP who didn’t want to be identified. “The communal atmosphere ahead of the State Assembly polls will be such that Jats will be forced to vote for the BJP,” he added.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 8:22:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/disillusioned-jats-leaving-modi-bandwagon-in-western-up/article7258233.ece

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