Mention western Uttar Pradesh and Jats come to mind. As the people of the region trudge to the polling booths today, the big question is which way will the Jats vote?
This is crucial for both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the challengers Samajwadi-Party-Rashtriya-Lok-Dal combine. Although Jats form just 2% of the population of the entire state, in western UP the community forms a sizeable part of constituencies such as Baghpat, Bijnor, Saharanpur, Agra, Hatras, Amroha, and Ghaziabad. In as many as 25 seats in the region, Jats constitute about 35% of the population, which has a direct impact on electoral outcome, while in the other half of the seats in the region they are able to have a crucial say.
Chaudhary Jayant Singh, who has taken on the mantle of heading the Rashtriya Lok Dal, after the demise of his father Ajit Singh, banks on the long history of the near-unwavering support the Jat community has given to his grandfather Chaudhary Charan Singh, the former prime minister of India. The late leader had managed to keep a grip on the region with his Jat-Muslim combine whose support he had managed to sustain through his political sojourn from the Congress, to the Bharatiya Kisan Dal and then to the Bharatiya Lok Dal.
Although support for the RLD under Ajit Singh spectacularly nosedived after the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, the Jat-Muslim alliance had managed to withstand even the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi agitation. If journalists and experts from the region are to be believed, this time the traditional alliance has been restored, which must make the ruling party very nervous.
The nervousness has taken the form of the chief minister Yogi Adityanath promising Jats that the next place that should see development is the holy city of Mathura.
While the general sense of Elections 2022 is that it is a bi-polar contest between the ruling BJP and the SP-RLD combine, it would be a mistake to dismiss the once-powerful Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party, which has the unwavering support of the Jatav caste among Dalits in the state. Dalits form about 23 per cent of the electorate in Uttar Pradesh, with Jatavs forming about 60% of the Dalit population. Reports seem to indicate that even as the SP-RLD alliance and even the BJP are wooing Jatavs, the community seems to be steadfast in its support for the BSP.
While that might be a relief for the SP front, the BJP might not be too happy with the situation, except that the BSP has fielded many Muslim candidates in crucial constituencies that might lead to cutting of anti-BJP votes.
The attempt to forge an alliance by the SP and Bhim Army chief, Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan, who has a strong presence in western UP came to naught. But the splitting of votes even among other Dalits as a result might have a bearing on the final results that will made known on March 10.