Rajat Sharma

How Amit Shah reached out to Jat community seeking support

rajat-sir In a fresh political development in UP, Home Minister Amit Shah reached out to Jat leaders and held talks with them seeking the community’s support to the BJP in the forthcoming assembly elections.

Nearly 253 leaders from different ‘khap panchayats’ of Jat community met Shah on Wednesday and placed their list of demands, which included job reservation for Jats, conferring of Bharat Ratna on former PM Chaudhary Charan Singh, naming of Jewar airport in the name of Jat Maharaja, and immediate payment of sugarcane arrears to farmers. Amit Shah replied that the Centre would respect the aspirations of Jats, and he hoped the community will continue to extend support to BJP as it did in the 2014, 2017 and 2019 elections.

“BJP has a long standing relationship with Jat community”, Amit Shah said, “and this cannot be broken over minor issues”. Shah asked the leaders about their grievances and promised to fulfil their demands. “Whenever our party sought their support, Jats always came out wholeheartedly to lend a helping hand”, he said, “there might be some shortcomings, but Jats have not turned their back on BJP. ..I, too, like Jayant Chaudhary (RLD chief), but he has preferred to choose the wrong camp. Possibilities (of a rapprochement) cannot be ruled out, anything can happen in future”.

Never had Amit Shah come out so clearly about RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary in public. The meeting with Jat leaders was held at BJP MP Parvesh Verma’s residence, and was organized by Parvesh with the help of Sanjeev Baliyan, the BJP leader from western UP.

After the meeting, Balyan looked confident. He said, Jat voters express their annoyance before the elections, but they ultimately vote for BJP. He alleged that Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav was using Jayant Chaudhary as a tool to further his political agenda. The alliance, he said, may be between the two leaders, but it has not percolated to the ground level (in other words, read, between Muslims and Jats in western UP). Baliyan said, there could be possibilities of RLD joining the BJP camp after the elections. “Anything can happen in politics”, he told India TV reporter.

In the Jat belt of western UP, the decisions taken by Khap panchayats are considered final, and these decisions often override political stands taken by parties. This was the reason why chiefs of Khap panchayats were called to the meeting, presided over by Chaudhary Jaiveer Singh, a respected community leader.

After the meeting, Chaudhary Jaiveer Singh said, “we have no problem with Akhilesh Yadav. The only problem is, incidents of hooliganism and loot did rise during his rule, womenfolk were not safe in public, and these were the reasons due to which the Jats supported BJP in the past. During Yogi’s rule, our womenfolk were free to move around in public and there was no such problem”.

Even Yogi’s rivals admit that there were practically few incidents of lawlessness during his rule and the majesty of law and administration prevailed. A senior Jat leader praising Yogi’s rule means much for the BJP, because Jats in western UP constitute more than 17 per cent of the population.

Jats decide the fate of candidates in as many as 97 constituencies in 21 districts of western UP. There are nearly 40 pc Jats in Mathura, 30 pc in Baghpat and 20 pc in Saharanpur. Since the first phase of polling is going to take place in western UP, all eyes are set on whom the Jat community will support. Gajendra Singh Atri, a Jat leader from Noida, said after the meeting, that Jats have no grievance with the BJP anymore. He even described the Home Minister as “Chaudhary Amit Shah”.

Issues like Hindu-Muslim, Jat vs non-Jat, and caste biradari do not matter much now. Law and order is uppermost in the minds of Jat community. RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary was among the first to react after Shah’s meeting. He tweeted: “Do not invite me, invite the families of 700-plus farmers, whose homes have been destroyed (during the farmers agitation)”. RLD leader Merajuddin described Shah’s meeting with Khap leaders as a “political stunt”. He said, “BJP betrayed Jats in the past, and will betray in future too.”

OBC leader Om Prakash Rajbhar, who has practically no mass base in western UP, remarked: “Such showcasing won’t help. Jats have realized the truth about BJP. Merely offering lollypops won’t do.” On Thursday, Amit Shah went on a door-to-door campaign in Mathura to woo Jat voters.

There are two main reasons for which the BJP leadership is worried about western UP. First, the alliance between Akhilesh Yadav and Jayant Chaudhary, and, second, the effect of year-long farmers agitation. Jats and Muslims decide the fate of most of the candidates in western UP. If the farmers’ agitation makes an impact on the electorate’s mind, it can affect the BJP adversely. Reason: Muslim voters normally never vote for BJP. In the last elections, the Jat community stood firm as a rock behind BJP in western UP, and the party won 82 out of 97 constituencies in 21 districts. SP managed to win only nine seats, BSP won three and the Congress two.

It is because of the importance of Jat votes that the BJP leadership cannot take the risk of antagonizing Jat community, at any cost. Amit Shah took the initiative from the front, spoke to Jat leaders, allayed their grievances, reminded them of the long standing relationship between Jats and his party, and promised to fulfil all their demands.

This was a welcome and historic gesture. That is why, some Jat leaders who came out of the meeting, described him as “Chaudhary Amit Shah”. Some of them even chanted “Amit Shah Zindabad” slogan. Some sceptics may say, nobody expected these leaders, who went to a BJP leader’s meeting, would have chanted slogans in support of Samajwadi Party.

Promises of naming Jewar airport after Jat Maharaja, or giving them reservation, or proper representation in power, could be part of political game, but Jat leaders raising the issue of safety of their womenfolk and law and order as benchmarks for comparing the SP rule with Yogi’s rule, needs to be seriously taken into consideration.

These remarks can have a big effect at the ground level. This issue relates to every Jat family, and it will surely have the desired impact. Law and order is going to become the topmost electoral issue in western UP this time.

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