2024 Lok Sabha Elections: Here’s Why Jayant Chaudhary Himself Not Contesting Polls for RLD

The RLD got two Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh after an alliance with the BJP. Party’s MLA Dr Rajkumar Sangwan has been fielded from Baghpat, the stronghold of the Chaudhary Charan Singh family. The decision has surprised many.
RLD Chief Jayant with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP President JP Nadda
RLD Chief Jayant with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP President JP Nadda

New Delhi: The battle for the upcoming general elections is becoming more and more intense with each passing day. All political parties are busy strengthening their social engineering and getting mathematics right. In Uttar Pradesh, setting up the political chessboard, the Opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) was the first to announce its candidates and set up the political chessboard. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a couple of days back responded to the move by declaring candidates on 51 out of 80 seats. 

Now, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), which recently jumped to the BJP-headed ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after divorcing the SP, also announced its candidates for two seats — which came in its share — on March 2.

MLA Chandan Chauhan, who belongs to the Gujjar community, has been fielded from Bijnor district. 

But the selection of the party’s candidate for Baghpat surprised many. Instead of trying his luck or fielding any of his family members from his ancestral constituency, RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary gave ticket to his party’s loyalist Dr Rajkumar Sangwan.

The constituency in western Uttar Pradesh was represented in the Lok Sabha by his grandfather, late Chaudhary Charan Singh, for three consecutive terms (1977, 1980 and 1984) and father, late Ajit Singh, for four terms (1989, 1991, 1996 and 1997).

The RLD lost the seat to BJP’s Satya Pal Singh in the 2014 and 2019 elections. But this time, despite being in the saffron fold, Jayant’s refusal to contest himself from Baghpat raises several questions.

Baghpat — Jayant’s Family’s Stronghold Since 1936

Chaudhary Charan Singh family’s association with the sugarcane district of Baghpat began in 1936, i.e. even before independence, when the British government introduced the parliamentary election system for the first time in the country. 

A stalwart farmer’s leader and former prime minister, Singh was first elected as the member legislative assembly (MLA) from here.

Since then only Singh’s family or any of their supporters has been winning here. However, in 2014, Ajit Singh lost this seat to Dr Satyapal Singh of the BJP in the Modi wave. Jayant himself had contested here in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He also lost to Satyapal Singh by a small margin.

But in the 2024 election, which is round the corner, there is no danger of a split in votes due to the BJP and the RLD coming together — clearing all obstacles in the path of victory. 

Despite all possible scenarios being in his favour, is Jayant's opting out to contest the elections a well-thought political strategy?

We list out a few apparent reasons behind the decision:

One: Jayant is presently a member of the Rajya Sabha (Parliament’s Upper House) from Baghpat. He was elected last year as a SP candidate.

RLD sources told The Mooknayak, the party has got two Lok Sabha and one Rajya Sabha seat as part of the deal with the BJP. 

“If Jayant had contested the Lok Sabha elections, he would have had to resign from the Rajya Sabha seat after victory. At present, he is not able to fully trust the BJP, which had first proposed RLD’s merger with it. By retaining the Rajya Sabha seat, he wants to take a benefit of the risk,” said a party leader, requesting anonymity.

Two: By fielding an old loyalist, he wants to give a message within the party. “The message to the party’s leaders and workers is loud and clear: loyalty to the party leadership is paramount. Sangwan has been with the RLD since the beginning,” said another party functionary.

Sangwan, who started his political career as a student leader from Meerut College under Charan Singh’s leadership, has remained an important part of the organisation behind the scenes in the RLD under the leadership of Ajit Singh and now Jayant.

Even after getting an offer from a leader like late Mulayam Singh Yadav to join the SP, Sangwan did not switch sides even though his disciples, who learned politics from him, kept getting big positions in the BJP, the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BJP). 

But he continued to be loyal to the RLD. It was decided that he would fight the 2022 UP Assembly polls from Siwalkhas, but Jayant, the source said, surrendering to SP’s pressure fielded Akhilesh’s candidate Ghulam Mohammad on RLD’s symbol instead of Sangwan.

The core workers of the RLD were angry with the decision. Now, by making Sangwan run for the party’s stronghold, Jayant has also given the message to his party workers that loyalty matters. 

“This will definitely increase the enthusiasm of RLD workers and they will unite,” he said.

Three: Even though the RLD and the BJP have joined hands after Prime Minister Modi announced his government’s decision to confer country’s highest civilian honour of the Bharat Ratna on Chaudhary Charan Singh, the saffron party had to give up the seat it had won twice.

Dr Satyapal Singh, former Mumbai Police commissioner, despite getting elected from Baghpat twice, could not make much space among the local BJP leaders in the past 10 years. Still, workers and local leadership of his party were believed to be secretly opposing the decision to give the seat to the RLD.

Jayant, the two sources said, is also aware of this. “Sensing a danger to his prospects because of resentment within the local BJP leadership, which may potentially spoil the RLD’s social equations on the seat, the party chief opted out to contest. If this had happened when Jayant contested the elections, then a wrong political message could have been sent to the party,” said the second source.

Ties with RLD: BJP’s Attempt to Emerge as Hegemonic Force?

It’s not the first time when the RLD has gone to the NDA fold. It was a BJP ally for more than 10 years. However, since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Jayant had been in the anti-BJP fold for the next 15 years. 

It allied with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2012. The RLD was a member of the SP-led coalition in the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2022 Assembly elections.

The RLD chose to stay with the ‘secular’ camp even after the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, which sharply polarized the western UP’s dominant Jat community. Following the riots, it lost a significant chunk of its core voters (Jats) to the BJP, and it was unable to regain that base for a number of years.

In the Assembly elections of 2022, it got marginal success in consolidating its core voting group and secured nine seats in a coalition with the SP. 

There are a significant number of sugarcane farmers in the Hastinapur belt, where it won eight of the nine seats. The RLD's resurgence in this region was aided by the sugarcane farmers’ strong opposition to the Union government’s now repealed three agricultural laws.

In contrast, it failed to consolidate Jat voters in regions such as Bulandshahr and Mathura.

Jayant was among the few leaders who challenged the BJP’s ideology. He would ask the crowd at rallies, “Please let me know in advance if you intend to vote based on your religion — Hindu or Muslim. Then I won’t waste time requesting your assistance.”

Even though his main base was the Jat community, Jayant, like his grandfather, father and noted farmer leader Chaudhary Mahendra Singh Tikait, stood first and foremost for agrarian politics.

He advocated agrarian politics as a countermeasure to the growing communal polarization. Rakesh Tikait (the younger son of Mahendra Singh Tikait) pivotal participation in the 2020–21 farmers’ protest offered the RLD an opportunity to bring this political movement back to life.

“Jayant’s decision to go in the NDA camp is an acknowledgement of failure to advance this political line against the BJP,” senior journalist Aditya Menon told The Mooknayak.

He pointed out the BJP aligning with regional parties such as the RLD is not just aimed at securing a few seats. 

“Mission 370 for the BJP and Mission 400 for the NDA are about dominion, not just numbers. The BJP is attempting to take the lead role in the country’s politics. Its goal is to dominate all political negotiations — as long as it does not clash its core ideology of Hindutva. For example, the NDA comprises the socialist parties such as the JD-United or JD(U), the JD-Secular or JD(S) and Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janta Party or JJP; two strands of Marathi regionalist parties (the Ajit Pawar led Nationalist Congress Party or NCP and the Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena); Assamese nationalist Asom Gana Parishad (AGP); and a party with Ambedkarite roots (the Republican Party of India - Athawale or RPI-Athawale),” he said, adding that it has now absorbed the agrarian politics of the RLD.

The message from the BJP, according to him, is that “you have no choice but to join us if you are a pressure group and want to get work done for your community or interest group because we will be in power for a long time to come. In exchange, we will respect your icons and provide you some space”.

“The BJP is ready to make room for all regional parties, provided that none of them are incompatible with Hindutva. It means, the Hindutva should dominate the brand of politics of such regional outfits,” he said.

RLD Chief Jayant with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP President JP Nadda
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He cited several instances to support his claims: Athawale was allotted a Rajya Sabha seat, but the RPI was not given a single Lok Sabha seat to contest in Maharashtra. 

The AGP similarly has become a smaller force in Assamese politics, while the BJP has become the state’s principal defender of nationalist feeling. 

Gujarat’s Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who, like Jayant, attempted to move his community away from Hindutva and take towards agrarian politics, was accommodated by the BJP as MLA.

“However, it is unclear how the BJP will work with parties such as the Shiromani Akali Dal and the AIADMK whose supporters are uncomfortable with the Hindutva philosophy,” he said.

Menon said the BJP seeks to strip the Opposition of its support base without softening its ideology of Hindutva.

“It is not mere a coincidence that some well-known Muslim journalists, who also have a great following on social media, have joined the RLD rank,” he said, referring to columnist Zainab Sikandar — who was once a staunch critic of PM Modi and the BJP.

He said the BJP has a very clear blueprint for dominance. Jayant Singh, akin to others preceding him, appears to have conceded “defeat” of his secular politics.

Jayant’s decision to join the NDA, according to Muzaffarnagar-based journalist and academician Dr Ravinder Rana, has not gone down well within his party.

“Those who stood by him during farmers’ agitation and faced police cases are feeling cheated. Jayant too is acknowledging the fact; and therefore, he chose to go to Nurpur in Hapur district — the birth place of his grandfather — to launch Ashirwad Yatra instead of Chhaprauli in Baghpat, which is his ancestral place. He canceled a scheduled rally at Mathura on February 4. A statue of Charan Singh  was scheduled to be unveiled at Chhaprauli on February 12 on the birth anniversary of his father Ajit Singh. But the programme too was postponed. Following his decision to go with the BJP, he has not made any public appearance in his strongholds. It makes it clear that he is willingly avoiding facing his supporters and local leadership,” he said.

Notably, Nurpur has neither any house of the family nor even a memorial of his late grandfather. It just has a library in the former prime minister’s name whose books had been destroyed by termite. The library was set up and inaugurated when Rajnath Singh was the chief minister of the state.

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