THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 4 APRIL, 2019
Muzaffarnagar responds positively to Singh #TCVotes
MUZAFFARNAGAR: “The cow has eaten the BJP,” Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh said, referring to the largescale destruction of crops by the hungry cattle across western UP. He is in direct contest with the BJP sitting MP Sanjeev Baliyan in what has emerged as a direct fight between the two. And the old Jat leader who looks at least a decade younger than his 80 years is giving a tough fight, playing on the alienation of the farmers from the BJP on the sugarcane prices, and crop destruction issues.
Ajit Singh’s father, the grand old Jat leader Charan Singh, had contested from Muzaffarnagar in 1971 and lost. His son has given new life to the contest in Muzaffarnagar that hit the headlines in 2013, just before the last elections for widespread communal violence in which Muslims fled their homes across the belt in large numbers.
Singh has worked since to mend the Jat-Muslim relations telling his community that “you cannot survive without each other, you need each other to remain a powerful vote bank and a voice in the region.” He has sought to convince them in Muzaffarnagar that the two are in affinity, that they cannot influence governments without unity, and that the minorities have posed no threat to the Jat community. In fact, quite the contrary with Muslims working on the fields and as the RLD workers point out to the voters in this sensitive constituency, “what did you gain with the violence, you lost your workers, and you never got your sugar cane prices. And now the cows are destroying your crops.” In fact several Jat farmers echoed this sentiment, maintaining that “we never had any problems with the Muslims and even now we want those who have left to come back.”
This is a big shift from the Khaps through 2014-2015 when the communal tension ripped apart the Jat-Muslim equations in the region. And not just in the town area, but moved into the villages, with neighbours attacking neighbours. Muslims fled for their lives, some never to return. But now that the dust has settled there is a feeling of remorse that the RLD is addressing with the argument that both communal harmony is necessary for development, and for people to get their rights. “We tell the Jats, no one will hear you as alone you are weak, you cannot shift the vote necessarily. With the other communities you can and will,” said RLD workers with Ajit Singh maintaining that this was drawing a good response.
The Dalit vote with the Bahujan Samaj Party will now benefit Ajit Singh who is confident of winning this seat. He has started his campaign last year, and held his first public meeting in Muzaffarnagar as far back as February 2018 with an eye on the Lok Sabha polls. There is a good BSP presence here, with Kadir Rana winning the elections in 2009 from Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha. Even during the Modi wave in 2014 that brought the BJP to power with 60% of the vote share from this constituency, Kadir Rana came second with almost 23% of the vote share. The Samajwadi party that had fought separately then got 14% of the votes and although the combined share of the SP-BSP, now in coalition was far less than the BJP, Ajit Singh is confident of winning back the Jat community.
Ajit Singh is not holding big rallies, but working around the clock despite his age, to visit all parts of the constituency. His campaign has been holding public meetings in villages, and speaking to groups of voters all across. He is focusing on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reminding the people of Muzaffarnagar of broken promises, of money spent on the PM’s clothes, of his foreign travels, and ridicules his claims of being a “fakir”. He has been attacking Modi on the lies he churns out, on economic policies that are a sore point with the Jats, the cow menace and how Delhi did not allow the farmers of western UP to even enter the capital.
Singh does not look his age, nor is there any sign of fatigue. He is an experienced campaigner now, and has decided to meet people face to face, in intimate gatherings, village rallies, and not waste time in big public meetings. The other leaders of the coalition, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav are also expected to visit the area before the first phase of the polls with the BSP crucial to the effective transfer of the Dalit vote to Singh.
His is a litany that has listeners, and the RLD is satisfied with the response. For Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Choudhary this election is a battle for revival and survival. The two have come together to make a concerted effort to win back the Jat vote, and re-establish their legacy in western UP through the three Lok Sabha seats in their share, Mathura, Muzaffarnagar and Baghpat.