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Khap leaders anoint Jayant Chaudhary as successor of Charan Singh’s legacy

At a social event that has political ramifications, leaders of different khaps in western Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Haryana on Sunday presented the traditional headgear to Jayant Chaudhary and formally anointed him as the successor of Chaudhary Charan Singh’s legacy. It not only meant that from now on his name will be preceded by Chaudhary in social and political gatherings, but his word will carry weight in socio-political issues.

Held in Chhaprauli town of Baghpat district, the traditional seat of the Chaudhary family, the event marked the “rasma pagdi” ceremony of Mr. Jayant’s father and former RLD (Rashtriya Lok Dal) president Ajit Singh, who passed away in May last owing to COVID-19 related complications.

With thousands of people in attendance, observers said, the event was mounted as a show of strength by the RLD. It came days after the mammoth Muzaffarnagar panchayat, where a section of the media got the impression that the Bhartiya Kisan Union’s (BKU) Rakesh Tikait, who has been leading the farmers’ protest against the contentious farm laws in the region, is going to be the political face of farmers as well.

Among those who presented the headgear was Naresh Tikait, president of BKU and head of Balyan khap. Speaking to reporters, he reiterated his call for voting against the BJP and appealed to people to vote for those who could defeat the ruling party.

In a short emotional speech, Mr Chaudhary said he would work to live up to the faith reposed in him. He asserted that he would not budge when it came to self-respect and dignity of the followers of Chaudhary Charan Singh. “This headgear, your blessings would act as an armour in facing any situation,” he observed.

Describing Mr. Tikait’s statement as an obvious hint as only the RLD has the capacity to take on the BJP in the region, Shokendra Chaudhary of Battisa Khap said the event had a clear political message as heads of 18 prominent khaps turned up in solidarity with the RLD president. “They promised to strengthen his hands in the forthcoming elections,” he observed.

Rajendra Singh present

Interestingly, Rajendra Singh, head of Gathwal Khap, who is known to be close to the BJP, was also present at the event. Mr. Singh has given a call for the ‘mahapanchayat’ in Muzaffarnagar on September 26 under the banner of the Hindu Mazdoor Kisan Samiti. He maintained that the BKU ‘mahapanchayat’ of September 5 could not discuss the “real issues” of the farmers and that they would take the genuine demands of farmers to the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister.

Shyam Singh, Thamba Chaudhary of Gathwal khap, who presided over the Muzaffarnagar ‘mahapanchayat’, said their head had gone astray and reduced to a puppet of the local MLA Umesh Malik, who also hailed from the Gathwal khap. “That is why he was forced to call the panchayat under the banner of another group that owes allegiance to the BJP,” stated Mr. Singh, who is the head of 12 villages within the khap of 80-odd villages. “The rest of the khap is with the the RLD and the BKU,” he claimed. During the event, he said, more than a thousand headgears were presented to Mr. Chaudhary, and representatives of 34 castes and Muslim farmers turned up in support.

Sokhendra Sharma, assistant professor of History at Digambar Jain College, Baraut, however, said khaps, traditionally, behaved very differently in social and political space. “We can say the RLD is definitely on a rebound, but to say that all the khaps will support it is a bit premature.”

Also, Dr. Sharma said, the BKU had emerged as a strong pressure group and Mr. Rakesh Tikait had become a national figure but the group’s political inclination still remained unclear as it came through during the panchayat polls. when they could not save even the prestigious Muzaffarnagar Zilla Panchayat seat from the BJP.

“They are still talking in hints. Everybody knows that the BKU is against the BJP but not many know that Jayant and Rakesh have ego issues. How they negotiate it, remains to be seen,” he added.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 3:28:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/khap-leaders-anoint-jayant-chaudhary-as-successor-of-charan-singhs-legacy/article36570093.ece

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