Days after it was reported that Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) is unhappy over uncertainty regarding the seat-sharing within the Congress-led INDI alliance, speculations have emerged about Jayant Chaudhary-led party joining the BJP-led NDA.
According to Times of India, while the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) was offering seven Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh to RLD, the party might go with the NDA if BJP offered five seats.
This is because the party expects a better conversion rate with the BJP as it would consolidate Jat votes. The coming together of SP-RLD was expected to consolidate Jat and Muslim votes.
However, it didn't deliver the desired results. According to many political observers, the Jat-Muslim vote bank has become non-existent, especially after the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
On the contrary, Jats either vote for BJP or RLD, and with both parties coming together Jats can vote en masse for the NDA.
While one can understand Jayant Chaudhary's urge to join the winning alliance, as NDA is expected to sweep the 2024 Lok Sabha elections according to various opinion polls, to understand BJP's reason for getting RLD into its fold, one needs to go back to Khatauli by-polls.
Khatauli is an assembly seat under Muzaffarnagar parliamentary seat where by-polls were held in November 2022 after the sitting BJP MLA Vikram Singh Saini was convicted in a case related to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
BJP lost this seat to RLD's Madan Gopal, also known as 'Madan bhaiya' in the by-polls. Thus, RLD showed its electoral capacity in Western UP. This could have been a factor in the BJP considering an alliance, apart from their want of covering maximum ground.
However, this loss was a setback to BJP's prominent Jat leader Sanjeev Balyan as he has been MP from Muzaffarnagar since 2014. With Jayant Chaudhary's party joining NDA, this seat might fall in RLD's quota and Balyan may lose his ticket.
Notably, the seats that RLD was expecting in INDI alliance were of Baghpat, Mathura, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Nagina, Agra and Hathras. However, with SP and Congress struggling over seat sharing, RLD was disappointed over not getting clarity about which seats it would contest.
RLD has been in alliance with the SP since the 2022 UP assembly polls. It even suggested that if tensions between Congress and SP surge further, it would side with the SP and let go of Congress as it doesn't have a substantial vote base in the state.
While recent speculations suggest RLD might break ties with Akhilesh Yadav, SP leader Shivpal Yadav refuted them saying that he knows Jayant Chaudhary well and they are secular people.
He alleged that the BJP is only misleading using the media and claimed that the RLD will remain in the INDI alliance and defeat the BJP.
Even if RLD goes along with the BJP, it will not be a new alliance. It will only be a return to an older alliance as both the parties have been together earlier too.
They contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections together where RLD won five and BJP 10 seats. However, Jayant Chaudhary's father Ajit Singh left the alliance to join UPA as civil aviation minister in Manmohan Singh's cabinet.
Before that, he served as Agriculture Minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet between 2001 and 2003. RLD was also a part of the Mayawati-led BSP-BJP government in UP after the 2002 assembly elections.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
An appeal from Swarajya
At Swarajya, we rely on our readers' support through subscriptions to sustain our media platform. Unlike larger conglomerates, we are unable to relentlessly chase advertising money — our model is largely built on your patronage.
Your support has never been more crucial. We work tirelessly to deliver 10-15 high-quality articles daily, ensuring you receive insightful content from 7 AM to 10 PM.
If you believe India's story has to be articulated in a way it has never been done before without shrugging it off, become a patron (or) subscribe now for ₹̶2̶4̶0̶0̶ ₹1999 and get 12 print issues, unlimited digital access for 1 year, a special India that is Bharat T-shirt (Offer ends soon).
We are counting on you!