“Jats are like potatoes now. We don’t have any absolute favourite this time,” Mitrapal Singh, ex-pradhan of Kafiyabad village of Moradabad Rural told The Sunday Guardian.
Making himself comfortable on his cot, Singh talks about the complexities of vote bank politics in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections of 2017. Reflecting on the dwindling political loyalties of the Jat community, Singh added, “Within one family votes are divided. They are going with anyone and everyone. In my family itself some are going for Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), while others are backing Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP) or Samajwadi Party(SP) as well.”
Jats constitute 17% of the total population in the western or sugarcane belt of Uttar Pradesh. They went with the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, however, this time around a sizeable chunk of angered and disillusioned Jats of Moradabad Urban, Moradabad Rural, and Kanth have decided to fall back on RLD, claiming that the BJP failed to keep its promises.
Jats constitute 17% of the total population in the western or sugarcane belt of Uttar Pradesh. They went with the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. However, this time around a sizeable chunk of Jats are falling back on RLD.
“We played instrumental role in bringing Narendra Modiji to power. If we can bring him to power we can stop him too. Unlike Choudhary Charan Singh, Ajit Singh might not have done anything substantial for us, but still the party takes up our issues. Therefore, this time our faith, support and votes are with nal (hand pump), RLD’s symbol,” said Vijay Singh, a resident of Kafiyabad village.
BJP is further saddled by the Jat reservation stir, demonetisation move and ignorance towards farmers’ issues.
“Due to notebandi (demonetisation) we couldn’t sow wheat on time. Farmers are extremely angry because of this. The BJP has lost a great deal of support with this move which will be seen in the election,” Singh added.
The community also voiced its indignation towards the Centre over the “land acquisition bill” and claimed that the Centre was ignoring their grievances caused due to crop failures and non-payment of the sugarcane arrears.
When asked about the chances of RLD securing a seat from Moradabad, a resident, who refused to disclose his name, confessed, “The RLD is playing the role of a spoiler. They might or might not secure a seat, but they would definitely make a dent in SP’s and BJP’s vote banks. For any party to form a government this time they’ll need RLD’s support and that is their victory.”
However, not all Jats have deserted BJP. “The Muzaffarnagar riots are long over but the fumes have not died down. Things can go nasty anytime and BJP is the only party that can stop it,” said Yogesh Kumar, the resident of a Muslim dominated Hartala village.
Furthermore, wherever BJP has fielded a Jat candidate the community wouldn’t shy from championing the party.
“Jat sentiments are against BJP but wherever they have fielded a Jat candidate we will vote for the party. But majorly the force is with RLD and there is no denying,” said Mitrapal Singh as he concludes his opinion and walks away.
RLD has fielded Mohammed Kamraan-ul Haq, an SP turncoat, from Moradabad Rural. Haq went with RLD after he failed to secure a ticket from SP. Haq has a strong hold in the area and is believed to not only fetch support from the Jat community but also attract Muslim votes, especially from villages like Shahpur and Islamnagar.
“I have been loyal to party but they didn’t appreciate my loyalty. When father and son are not listening to each other why will they listen to anyone else? RLD showed confidence in me because they understand my reach in the area and I will reciprocate their confidence by not only winning Muslim votes in the area but also securing close to 17,000 Jat votes. The tide is in our favour,” said Kamraan ul Haq.
“Although our heart lies with Akhilesh Bhaiya, we have no choice but to go with Kamraan ul Haq, as he is very influential here and has done good work. We have no choice but to go with RLD,” said Yamin, a resident of Shahpur village in Moradabad Rural.