The Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), which has three members in the Rajasthan Assembly and one in the Lok Sabha, on Monday called for the rollback of the Centre’s Agnipath scheme for recruitment in the armed forces at a massive rally organised in Jodhpur. The rally was aptly titled ‘Yuva Hunkar Maha rally’ (‘mega rally with the roar of the youth’).
Thousands of youths from four districts in central and western Rajasthan, where the RLP enjoys considerable support, participated in the rally, with the pledge to oppose the Agnipath scheme, saying it had “crushed [their] dreams”, as they aspired to join the Army as regular soldiers to serve the nation. The RLP is also planning to organise a march to Delhi soon to step up its agitation.
The RLP was the first political force in the State to launch a protest against the scheme, and hit the streets even before the ruling Congress took up the matter. Senior Congress leaders, including Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, were busy with the party’s agitation against the Enforcement Directorate’s questioning of Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald case when the Union government announced the scheme.
The Agnipath scheme came as an opportunity for the RLP — a former member of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance — to strengthen its position in the Jat community, which sends a large number of youths to the Army and para-military forces every year, and establish its position as the third political front in the State. The party, founded before the 2018 State Assembly election, claims to represent farmers and soldiers.
Addressing the rally, RLP convener and Nagaur MP Hanuman Beniwal said the party’s agitation was not aimed at getting any political mileage, as the issues involved pertained to the younger generation’s future. “The Jat Regiment of the Indian Army is praised all over the world for its courage and valour. The Agnipath scheme, with one stroke, has shattered the aspirations of our youths and destroyed the hard work put in for recruitment,” he said.
Mr. Beniwal, who has been trying to position himself as the most influential Jat leader, said he had staged a 70-day-long dharna and parted ways with the NDA over the agriculture sector laws in 2020. “Like the farm laws, the Centre will have to withdraw this ill-advised scheme. If needed, we will block highways and railway tracks... We will march to Delhi,” he said.
The RLP has also staged protests at district headquarters during the last few days and announced that it was the party’s “final battle” to secure the rights of youths. Rajasthan is among the leading States from where youngsters join the armed forces. Thousands of youths from the Shekhawati region’s districts, such as Sikar, Jhunjhunu and Churu, have been recruited in the defence forces, while there are many families have been serving in the Army for several generations.