The Jat Vote in Western UP
Largely with the BJP, but angry #TCVotes
AMROHA: In village Murha, a group of Jat seniors are sitting under the shade discussing politics. Like most voters in Uttar Pradesh, they are very well informed about the area, the knowledge is vast and the interest palpable. They all say they are supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party, will vote for the party with the loud disclaimer, “well not so much for the party, but we will be voting for Modiji.”
But then as the conversation continues, the story begins to change. And feeds into the claim by Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh that he has been able to break a good section of the Jat vote from the BJP in the Muzaffarnagar-Baghpat belt. There the Jats dominate, here in the Amroha-Moradabad area they share the space and have remained fairly out of the influence of the RLD after the old kulak leader Charan Singh passed away in 1987. A bit rudderless until they embraced the BJP soon after.
The disillusionment with the ruling party is huge. And it runs across western UP, regardless of where the Jats vote will fall. Sugarcane is one issue, remunerative prices for potatoes another, the privatisation of sugar mills a third, and cattle the fourth. A potent mix as these cut right into Jat livelihood, and have together created a resentment and anger that is making itself felt.
RLD leader Ajit Singh, whose constituency Muzaffarnagar was in the first phase of polling, is confident of getting 75% of the Jat vote. This support turns into wild enthusiasm for the RLD in Baghpat, the party’s core as it were, from where his son Jayant Choudhary is contesting. The Jat voters that had turned lukewarm in the last election are all back with the party, and as Ajit Singh said there is not a single home where “the cow has not eaten the BJP vote.”
In far away Murha, the group of Jats bear this out. Despite being Modi supporters, they finally burst out angrily about the cattle problem. “There was a system they have destroyed now, the old cattle are dying. The gaushalas are not enough, and even there there is no money for the cows. The government is giving Rs 30 for one cow, tell me what will this do when just the price of fodder is Rs 1200-1600 per quintal. They are in deep distress, they are sick and starving and dying, “ said Yogendra Singh.
Others nodded as he went on, “we had a system and they (govt) has unnecessarily interfered in this system. And now the old and ageing cows are all lying there, starving.” We did not ask what the system was, nor did he elaborate as everyone sitting there knew what he was talking about.
The Jats prefer BJP, or else RLD where it is an option. They do not see the Samajwadi party and the BSP as their own, and are well aware that the Congress has little to no chance of winning. They are feeling hemmed in here, and this is apparent from Yashpal Singh who points out, “there is not Ajit Singh here. They are only fighting three seats.” Ravi Choudhary elaborates, “Ajit Singh should have fought more seats if he wanted to revive his fathers (Charan Singh) legacy. Three seats will not do that for him.”
The Jats have voted overwhelmings for the BJP in 2014, and this vote bank is dented in parts. And in the rest, even though remaining with the BJP, has lost its enthusiasm. Jats are vocal, loud supporters of whatever party they have decided to go with. They usually vote en bloc across the region, with the khaps setting the tone and direction. This time around the community mood is in the quiet to angry bracket. Quiet as in resigned to having no feasible alternative, angry and resentful in most parts. Several villages bear the scars of the farmers march to Delhi on October 2 where they were stopped by the government, and lathi charged. This is an issue here, with several Jats saying that this was unacceptable behaviour by the government “and we will not vote for the BJP.” Who will you vote for then, “maybe no one” piped up a Jat youth standing by at a crossing.
Have you got money in your accounts, we ask the farmers. They look at each and one responds, “yes” How much? “Rs 2000”. Thats a lot? There is silence then one responds looking at the others, “maybe we might be able to get a new set of clothes”. They laugh. They are all Jats.
Interestingly, the Jats are certain that the fight in western UP is between the BJP and the Gathbandhan. While traders did predict a BJP victory, Jat farmers were far more reticent maintaining that the SP-BSP coalition was giving a tough fight. Congress party? That does not exist here, is the kisans refrain.
The Jats speak of the days they voted along with the Muslims. In fact this was their leader Charan Singh’s social engineering that brought together two powerful vote banks in western UP. The amity was fractured in 2013 by the BJP through the Muzaffarnagar violence that had the Muslims fleeing for their lives. In fact two years after the violence, this reporter met Jats in the villages regretting the violence, and saying openly that they would like the Muslims to return to the villages. Incidentally Charan Singh’s formula had effectively left the Dalits out of the equation. Ajit Singh hopes that all three communities will now come under the coalition umbrella in these Lok Sabha polls.