U.P. Election | Other States

Modi’s charisma intact, but Jats of western Uttar Pradesh want more

A cross-section of Jat farmers felt that the region mostly had small farmers who could not afford to spend days at the farmer protest sites but the anguish was no less  

As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faces the Jat challenge in western Uttar Pradesh, the message from the ground in Aligarh and Hathras districts is mixed. While there are many who still swear by the ruling party for providing suraksha, bijli aur sadak (safety, electricity and roads), there are others who feel the party has let down a vote bank that is known to be loyal.

In West U.P., Jats constitute around 18% of the population and their votes become a decisive factor in 40 to 50 seats. At present, there are 14 Jat MLAs in the Assembly, most of whom are from the BJP.

Demand for MSP

In the millet-potato belt, organised khaps and sugarcane prices are not dominant factors but the demand for the MSP law is as resonant as in the Muzaffarnagar-Meerut belt.

“Here, the farmers have to sell wheat and millet at a much lower rate than the MSP in the open market. Cold storages are overflowing with potatoes because the market rate is much lower than the input cost,” said Surendra Singh, a farmer from Iglas.

A cross-section of Jat farmers that The Hindu spoke to felt that the region mostly had small farmers who could not afford to spend days at the farmer protest sites but the anguish was no less. The sense was if the government could provide them guaranteed MSP, they would not need the crutches of Kisan Credit Card and PM Kisan Samman Nidhi.

There are others like Ram Naresh Singh, a farmer from Lodha who attended the PM’s rally on Tuesday, and is happy with the ‘double engine’ government. “Had you attended a rally during the previous regime, you would not have left with the gold chain in your neck. This government has given us security, electricity and roads. What more do you want,” he asked.

Hindutva appeal

Religious polarisation is evident in conversations with people of the districts. Bhoop Singh, another farmer, said they voted for the BJP on “the issue of Hindutva” and the party has “lived up to its promise on the Ram Temple and [abrogation of] Article 370.”

Rahul Singh, a young graduate from Aligarh Muslim University from Khair said the upcoming university in the name of Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh would give the community a sense of parity with the Muslims.

With senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Azam Khan cited as the prime example, “controlling the Muslims,” is being touted as the main success of the BJP. “During the reign of BSP and SP, cow theft was a common problem. Now nobody can dare do it. With the gaushala scheme finding roots in the region, the aging cows have found a home,” said Dharmendra Singh, an advocate.

Gordhwaj Singh, the young scion of the Mursan estate, who is a contender for the BJP ticket from Sadabad, said as somebody who had large tracts of agricultural land, he didn’t see any problem with the farm laws.

“Small farmers have suffered because of the self-seeking attitude of some big farmers in this region. If the government policies help small farmers to be independent, what is the harm,” said Mr Singh, the great-great-grandson of iconic jat ruler, Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh.

However, there is a section of the community that felt that though Mr. Modi’s charisma was still strong, the Jat faces projected by the BJP didn’t command respect in the community and that the image of the community had been reduced to that of “Muslim baiters.”

“The long-standing demand of Jat reservation in central jobs has not been met despite promises made before elections. We know the plea was rejected by the Supreme Court but we have also seen how the ruling party brought an amendment to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act when a top court’s order diluted it,” said Vivek Prakash, former president of the Iglas Bar Association.

Corruption at the grassroots continues to be a concern

“Earlier, if we had to pay a bribe of ₹5,000 for removal of the name of a person who was accused under Section 151 of IPC, now, this rate has increased to ₹8,000. The SHO holds the inflation responsible for this hike,” said another advocate requesting anonymity.

Rishabh Chaudhary, the convenor of the Mursan unit of Bajrang Dal, complained that gaushalas were set up only when the CM was in the region. “Otherwise, bulls and cows could be seen on the roads at night or munching away in the fields. Keeping bulls and cows together has become a problem as well,” he said.

Mr Prakash felt only those Jats were still with the BJP whose vested interests were aligned with the ruling party and that the story would be different during the elections. “If the Samajwadi Party left a large chunk of seats in the region for the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the alliance could pose a real threat to the BJP in the region.”

He praised the government’s implementation of the free ration scheme to the farm workers but said it would not necessarily affect the voting pattern. “In villages, there is morchabandi (competing politics) under two factions. The farmer or worker would vote with those who have been helping them in crisis, not the seasonal benefactors,” he observed.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 5:35:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/modis-charisma-intact-but-jats-of-western-up-want-more/article36536425.ece

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