The ongoing farm protest in which the Jats are at the epicenter had given the party hope of reviving its electoral fortunes.
New Delhi: The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), which was once a very influential political force in western Uttar Pradesh, is now trying to regain its lost ground through an Samajwadi Party-led Opposition alliance. The ongoing farm protests in which the RLD’s core Jat voters are at the epicenter, had also given the party hope of putting on a good show in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly election. The Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are crucial for both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Opposition parties like the SP, BSP and Congress. For the RLD, which is a small regional party in UP, this election is a do-or-die battle as the party has not been successful in performing well in the last three elections, 2014 parliamentary election, 2017 Assembly election and the 2019 parliamentary election.
Many believe that the RLD is banking on the traditional Jat and Muslim alliance which used to form late Choudhary Charan Singh’s successful political plank. Now with months left for the Assembly election in 2022, RLD in alliance with the SP wants to blur out fault lines between the two communities with the help of “bhaichara zindabad sammelans”.
In the last few months, the RLD had held about 20 such sammelans in different parts of western Uttar Pradesh where the workers and leaders of SP were also in attendance. The aim of RLD-SP is to garner support from the Jats and Muslims which had been their traditional support base. However, political scientists and experts believe that only the Jat and Muslim factor would not be enough for the SP-RLD alliance to numerically beat the BJP in the western Uttar Pradesh which had 130-odd Assembly constituencies.
Ajit Kumar Jha, a senior political analyst who had covered Uttar Pradesh extensively, said: “The recent Mahapanchayat, in Muzaffarnagar, organized by BKU’s Rakesh Tikait is a sign that a large section of Jat farmers are angry with the incumbent BJP government in Lucknow and Delhi. The joint slogans of Har-Har-Mahadev and Allahu-Akbar also indicate a new secular alliance emerging of Jats with Muslims. That will also be a challenge for the BJP in the 2022 Assembly polls. Given both RLD and SP are supporting the farmers’ protests and are in an alliance, it is likely to help them. However, it is not yet clear whether this new emerging alliance will prove to be a game-changer. Reason: The electoral evidence from the last three elections in Uttar Pradesh (Lok Sabha 2014, 2019 and 2017 Assembly polls) reveals that the BJP has a massive advantage. In other words, there is an electoral realignment (defined as decisively measurable and durable shift of voter preferences) in favour of the BJP. Can the RLD-SP alliance challenge such a saffron realignment? Unlikely. Not unless BSP joins the SP-RLD alliance.”
In the 2017 UP Assembly polls, the SP won 47 seats out of 298 it contested in alliance with the Congress and lost 177 seats in comparison to its 2012 figures of 224 seats. The Jayant Choudhary-led RLD won only one seat which was eight below its 2012 assembly election performance.
Rajan Pandey, a political observer who focuses on Uttar Pradesh , said: “The challenge is tough for the BJP in western UP with the SP-RLD tie-up, but only the RLD-SP alliance cannot win the state for the opposition. A larger unity is necessary. The RLD-SP alliance alone will be insufficient to counter the BJP. They had to bring in the Indian National Congress (INC) which is a major force in at least 30 seats, Azad Samaj Party-led by Chandrashekhar Ravan and others. If that happens, the alliance would have a chance in the state. Even within the SP-RLD, there are cracks in seat sharing, RLD wants to contest 70 seats, while the SP is willing to give them around 30 seats.”
SP chief Akhilesh Yadav always had a soft corner for the RLD, in the 2019 parliamentary polls, when SP-BSP went for an alliance, Akhilesh Yadav convinced the BSP to give three seats (Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat and Mathura) to the RLD to contest. Since then, the SP had kept the RLD on board in its mission Uttar Pradesh. The BJP has termed the proposed alliance a grouping of two failed princes. Dinesh Dubey, a senior BJP leader based in Lucknow, said, “The theory of a particular caste group angry with the BJP is a farce, which you would see in the results of 2022 Assembly elections in our state. What happened in the 2020 Assembly bypolls when the SP-RLD got united, they lost. Voters can’t be fooled again by the RLD and SP. The situation of farmers deteriorated during the SP rule. People have realised this; in 2022, no electoral combination will work for the RLD.”