LUCKNOW: While addressing a public rally at Badaut in Baghpat seeking votes for son Jayant Chaudhury, Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Chaudhury Ajit Singh minces no words in attacking PM Narendra Modi. Taking a jibe, ‘Chhote Chaudhury’ as Ajit Singh is affectionately known among his people, claims that had the PM gone to Sri Lanka, he would have grabbed the credit for killing demon king Ravana, to an applauding crowd recently.
Elation in RLD is palpable and confidence, attained by piggybacking SP-BSP alliance, is exuberating but the stakes for the father-son duo are much high in ensuing battle of their survival.
RLD used to be a force to reckon with in western UP once. But the winds of temple movement swayed its traditional Jat votes towards the BJP. The gradual transition of Jats towards the saffron movement was such that it pushed the ‘kisan’ party, to the margins of UP politics.
“The political decisions by Ajit Singh over the years and his image of being a ‘perennial turncoat’ also played a distinctive role in the decline of his party in his own stronghold,” says a senior political scientist AK Mishra.
The decline has been such that the party which had won five of seven seats it had contested in alliance with the BJP in 2009, failed to even open its account despite fighting on eight seats as part of UPA in 2014. However, it was not alone RLD which was decimated under sweeping Modi wave, even Congress and BSP also met the same fate. SP could win just five seats of first family.
In the given scenario, joining SP-BSP alliance was the only ray of hope for the diminished RLD. “The issue of survival and protecting its pocket boroughs was so crucial for the RLD that it had to climb down to just three constituencies – Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat and Mathura – while negotiating seats in the Gathbandhan,” says senior political observer JP Shukla.
The biggest challenge before the RLD is not only to win the seat of its quota but also transfer its vote bank – Jats and Muslims-- to SP and BSP candidates across west UP.
RLD chief Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Chaudhary’s decision to contest from Muzaffarnagar and Bagpat constituencies was the only strategic option left for the duo. In 2014, both the leaders had lost their strongholds -- Baghpat and Mathura -- to BJP.
“Ajit Singh has shifted to Muzaffarnagar from Baghpat expecting consolidation of Jat-Muslim votes which were divided after 2013 communal flare-up. The Jat-Muslim disharmony had benefitted the BJP Muzaffarnagar in 2014 and Sanjeev Balyan emerged victorious,” says JP Shukla.
But what gave Ajit Singh the confidence to change his constituency which he has represented in Lok Sabah six times since 1989 except 1998 and 2014?
“The results of Kairana bypoll in 2018 strengthened his confidence and pushed him to give another try to RLD revival,” says Mishra.
Similarly, Jayant Chaudhury who was drubbed by BJP’s Hema Malini in Mathura in 2014 has shifted to save his father’s legacy in Baghpat. While Mathura, which has a bigger chunk of jat voters than Baghpat, is left to Kunwar Narendra Singh against Hema Malini again. Singh was once an MLA from Laksar assembly constituency in 1985. Even his elder brother Manvendra Singh is supporting the BJP.
The stakes for RLD are high but if caste arithmetic works in this election, the grand SP-BSP-RLD alliance will have the potential to present a formidable challenge to the BJP in UP 2022.