The Jat community in Rajasthan has begun jostling for a bigger slice of the electoral pie in this year’s Assembly election, and even aiming for the Chief Minister’s post. Comprising about 15% of the State’s population, Jats influence the poll outcome in 50 to 60 of the 200 Assembly seats. The clout of the OBC community is visible in the election of 10% to 15% Jat MLAs in every election; as many as 31 Jat candidates won in 2018.
On Monday, Rajasthan Jat Mahasabha president Rajaram Meel said that the community has set a target of electing 50 MLAs and placed a demand before the Congress and the BJP to give tickets to at least 40 Jat candidates each. “If 50 Jat MLAs are elected to the House, it is a Jat leader who will occupy the chair of the Chief Minister,” he said.
Jat leaders, cutting across party lines, had attended a massive gathering titled ‘Jat Mahakumbh’ in Jaipur last week, where the participants rued the lack of adequate representation in politics and government jobs; Congress leader Rameshwar Dudi and BJP State president Satish Poonia attended the gathering. In a pledge taken at the rally, the leaders announced that the community members would only vote for Jat candidates in the Assembly election.
The political mobilisation, coming amid a demand for conducting a caste census in the State and increasing the reservation for OBCs from the current 21% to 27%, is likely to create difficulties for both the ruling Congress and the Opposition BJP since Jat votes are generally cast unanimously in favour of a single party.
The community is dominant mainly in the Shekhawati region, comprising Sikar, Jhunjhunu and Churu districts, and has a presence in districts such as Nagaur, Bikaner, Jaipur, Barmer, Tonk and Ajmer. Significantly, the State presidents of both the Congress and the BJP at present are Jats belonging to the Shekhawati region.
Pradesh Congress president Govind Singh Dotasra was elected from Sikar district’s Laxmangarh constituency, while Mr. Poonia, elected from Jaipur district’s Amber seat, hails from Churu district. Hanuman Beniwal, the chief of Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, which has three members in the Assembly, is also a Jat.
Sections of the community are peeved about the “missed opportunities” for Jat leaders to get the Chief Minister’s post during the last two decades. Jats had overwhelmingly voted for the Congress in 1998 in the hope that their leader Parasram Maderna would be appointed the CM. They then overwhelmingly voted for the BJP in 2003, when Vasundhara Raje was projected as the daughter-in-law of a Jat family.