NEW DELHI: In North India’s caste politics, the Jat calculus is an important algorithm. The ripple of the community’s agitation has conspicuously moved to Uttar Pradesh’s pre-poll scenario. As Jat anger simmers in Haryana over reservation, the BJP is likely to get scalded in Uttar Pradesh. The community had supported the party after Narendra Modi and Amit Shah reached out to them during the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign.
Jat-dominated Western UP witnessed communal clashes three years ago, which led to caste polarisation over religion. The BJP gained, because new Jat leaders such as Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan emerged. He represents Muzaffarnagar, which faced savage communal riots in 2013. Balyan’s aggressive Hindutva posture made him an indispensable choice for the BJP, since Jat leaders have been aligned with the Congress and socialist parties in the past. Even as Jat protests threaten to spill over to other states, the BJP is likely to treat leaders of the community with kid gloves.
Ignoring alliances with leaders like Ajit Singh, who are struggling to win back Jat confidence, the BJP is looking at nurturing its own set of leaders. In Haryana, seven of the 10 Lok Sabha seats were won in 2014, not courtesy the Jats. The National Election Study 2014 showed that the INLD got 40 per cent of the Jat votes, while the BJP’s share was just 17 per cent.
The land boom of the ’90s encouraged Jats, who are predominantly agricultural, to sell off land to builders. Even though this created a niche of nouveau riche, land holdings shrunk and urban jobs were out of reach of the youth who have a literacy rate of 45 per cent. A Jat-Brahmin opportunistic alliance in Haryana could happen, following the example of opposing segments like the Rajputs and Brahmins forming the Social Justice Front in Rajasthan. In Punjab, Brahmins have formed the Parshuram Sena. In spite of Jats enjoying reservation in Rajasthan, their OBC status demand in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi remains unrecognised.