Why Is The RLD Facing Internal Revolt In Meerut?
Many RLD leaders and cadre have come out in open revolt after it was apparent that out of the total 32 seats given to the RLD by the SP, around eight of them would see SP leaders fighting on an RLD symbol.
Ahead of the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh due next month, the signs of trouble in the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) camp have come out in the open ever since the alliance partners announced their candidates for western UP, where the first phase of the elections are to be held on 10 February.
Many RLD leaders and cadre have come out in open revolt after it was apparent that out of the total 32 seats given to the RLD by the SP, around eight of them would see SP leaders fighting on an RLD symbol. While RLD supremo Jayant Chaudhary is reiterating that the alliance is still formidable, there is discontent among sections of the RLD cadre, especially in Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Bijnor.
It must be noted that it is only SP candidates that are contesting the election on an RLD symbol, but not vice-versa.
Siwalkhas Seat: A Muslim candidate in “Jat-Land” on RLD symbol
One such seat where the ticket distribution has soured ties between the alliance partners is the Siwalkhas assembly constituency of Meerut. Siwalkhas, on which the SP has given the ticket to former MLA Ghulam Mohammad on an RLD symbol, has now become a question of prestige for the RLD and its core voters, i.e. the Jat community.
Given the numbers of both Jat and Muslim voters on the Siwalkhas seat, there was tough competition for the ticket. The RLD, undoubtedly, had a stronger claim on the seat and its probable contenders here had been preparing for some time as they were assured of the ticket.
But it is being said that Jayant Chaudhary didn’t put much effort to bag the seat for a Jat candidate on RLD symbol.
Not just this, the SP fielded Akhilesh Yadav's close aide Atul Pradhan in the Sardhana seat. Atul Pradhan belongs to the Gujjar community and has lost twice to BJP’s Sangeet Som. In the Meerut Cantt seat, the SP has fielded Manisha Ahlawat, a rather unknown face in the politics of Meerut, on an RLD ticket.
The decision to field a Muslim candidate from the SP on RLD ticket from a seat on which the Jat voters holds decisive sway, has antagonised the local Jat community to the extent that its leaders went on to register their protest by gathering at the RLD office in Delhi, and in other places, including Jayant Chaudhary’s bungalow. Even party flags were reportedly burnt in many Jat villages of the region.
As per reports, the RLD wanted three seats in Meerut, namely Siwalkhas, Sardhana and Meerut Cantt. But out of the seven seats in Meerut, the SP has declared its candidates on five seats, and on the two seats which have been given to the RLD, it is actually the SP candidates who are contesting the election on RLD symbol. Interstingly, four of the SP tickets in Meerut have been given to Muslim candidates.
Effectively, in the constituencies which the RLD considers to be its stronghold, its original cadre and leaders have not got even one seat. Observers say that with the Siwalkhas, Sardhana, and Meerut Cantt seat taken from the Lok Dal, it is highly likely that the crucial Jat votes would also slip away from the SP-RLD alliance.
The SP-RLD ticket fiasco might profit the BJP
After the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013, there emerged a wide rift between the Jats and the Muslims in western Uttar Pradesh. It is said that during and after the riots, the RLD leaders allegedly deserted the Jat community when it felt itself under siege in 2013. On the other hand, it was BJP’s Sanjeev Balyan who stood with the community on the ground, and thus emerged as the tallest Jat leader.
The BJP, since then- be it in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the 2017 UP Assembly elections (RLD only won Chhaprauli), and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections- had secured the majority of Jat votes in western UP. However, the anti-farm laws agitation, led by Rakesh Tikait (a Jat leader from Muzaffarnagar), is said to have antagonised the Jats against the BJP.
Given the fact that the farm laws have already been repealed, and that the BJP has fielded many Jat candidates in western Uttar Pradesh, political analysts say that Jat voters would rather consider voting for a candidate from the community on a BJP ticket, instead of voting for a candidate from the minority community from the RLD.
Increasing resentment in the RLD cadre
“Our chief should have been able to deal with this firmly. We are a junior partner in the alliance but are strong in west UP and hold sway in the region in the prevailing circumstances. But it seems our chief has succumbed to the SP pressure,” said national general secretary (minority wing) and veteran RLD leader Anudin Shah.
“The seat distribution has given a walkover to the BJP. We have nothing to lose. It is Akhilesh Yadav who dreams to become the chief minister but if he cannot honor the rules of an alliance, we know how to defeat such a mindset,” exclaimed state president of Rashtriya Jat Mahasangh Rohit Jakhad, who protested at the statue of former PM Chaudhary Charan Singh.
The discontent among the party ranks and the Jat community is not limited to Meerut and has spread to other parts of western UP as well.
“Resentment is widespread. SP has fielded its candidates on the RLD symbol where Jats are in majority and were considered safe seats. For instance, Sanjay Laatar in Mathura, Rajpal Saini in Khatauli, the list goes on,” an RLD leader was quoted as saying by the Times of India.
The RLD workers alleged that Akhilesh Yadav is trying to hijack the benefits of all the hard work done by the RLD in creating a strong anti-BJP narrative in western UP.
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