Litmus test for Jayant crossover to NDA in Jat politics heartland

Jayant’s cross over to the BJP camp amid seat-sharing talks with INDIA ally SP dealt a rude shock for the opposition bloc.
RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary.
RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary.File Photo

BAGHPAT: Along the narrow lanes of Baghpat’s Chhaprauli Dehat village, the smiling photographs of former PM Chaudhary Charan Singh and his grandson Jayant Chaudhary don the walls of many houses. It is not an uncommon sight in the land of Jat politics and home to Charan Singh’s family. The peasant leader, who was recently conferred with Bharat Ratna, represented Baghpat in the Lok Sabha thrice. While his son Ajit Singh won the Baghpat seat seven times, his grandson Jayant Chaudhary lost the seat to BJP’s Satyapal Singh in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Political equations have, however, changed with Jayant Chowdhury’s RLD joining the NDA camp. As Baghpat goes to polls on April 26, it will be an acid test for Jayant who stitched an alliance with the BJP ahead of polls. In the three-cornered contest, RLD’s Raj Kumar Sagwan, SP’s Amarpal Sharma, and BSP’s Praveen Bansal are in the fray. Interestingly, it is the first time since 1977 that RLD fielded a candidate from outside the Chaudhary clan in Baghpat.

Jayant’s cross over to the BJP camp amid seat-sharing talks with INDIA ally SP dealt a rude shock for the opposition bloc. The jury is still out on Jayant’s move, says Lokesh Tyagi, a Jat farmer in Pali village.

Jaikishan Singh, an ardent supporter of the RLD, differs. “Chowdhury Charan saab brought glory to our village. I don’t think the Modi government gave him the award to get RLD on their side. My family has been voting for the Chaudhary family for generations. Jayant will carry forward his grandfather’s legacy,” he says.

It is a common refrain echoed by most of the Jat community in the sugar belt. The alliance will reap benefits for NDA, says BJP supporter Kishen Lal Saini, pointing out that the Jats were divided between the BJP and the RLD earlier. “Most Jats were unhappy with the RlD’s alliance with the SP. The BJP is the natural ally of RLD. Akhilesh’s party is only for Muslims,” says Saini.

For the same reason, Jayant lost to BJP’s candidate in Baghpat in 2019 when he had tied up with the SP and BSP, he says. The caste fault-lines that emerged after the 2013 riots in the neighbouring Muzaffarnagar continue to cast a shadow on the relationship between the communities.

Though the region has seen a revival of bonhomie between Muslims and Jats after the farmers’ stir in 2019, Jayant’s migration to the BJP is a blow to the unity efforts initiated by many, including farmer leader Rakesh Tikait. Though the dominant Jat population will hold sway, Baghpat has a significant Muslim population, too.

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