Lok Sabha Elections 2024: To What Extent Will BJP Face the Impact of Rajput Community Dissent in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh?

In Western Uttar Pradesh, the Rajput community's discontent with the BJP has surged due to perceived marginalization in ticket allocation. Similarly, in Gujarat, the community is angered by remarks made by a Union Minister. The decision to appoint Bhajanlal Sharma as CM in Rajasthan instead of Vasundhara Raje had fueled dissent within the community in the desert state.
Lok Sabha Elections 2024: To What Extent Will BJP Face the Impact of Rajput Community Dissent in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh?

New Delhi- The intersection of politics and caste dynamics in India often influences electoral outcomes, and political parties frequently face challenges when caste groups express dissatisfaction. In the current Lok Sabha elections, the Rajput community, traditionally regarded as a stronghold of the BJP, is not as aligned with the party as before. Across Western Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Rajasthan, their discontent is apparent, whether due to perceived unfair ticket distribution or objectionable remarks from a minister that have offended their sentiments.

In Western Uttar Pradesh, the Rajput community's discontent with the BJP has surged due to perceived marginalization in ticket allocation. Similarly, in Gujarat, the community is angered by remarks made by a Union Minister.

In Rajasthan, the Rajput community's disillusionment with the BJP is palpable. Traditionally a core vote bank for the saffron party, the mission to secure 25 Lok Sabha seats appears increasingly challenging. The decision to appoint Bhajanlal Sharma as CM instead of Vasundhara Raje had fueled dissent within the community. Furthermore, the murder of Karni Sena chief Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi in December 2023, deeply unsettled them. Now, with Rupala's controversial remarks, the community has openly voiced its dissent, warning that if the ticket is not withdrawn, their support cannot be guaranteed.

In UP, specifically, the Rajputs express dissatisfaction with Sanjeev Balyan, the incumbent BJP MP from Muzaffarnagar and Union Minister of State, despite Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's endorsement. At a rally attended by a resident of Rardhana village in Meerut, a striking analogy was made: "Rajputs are akin to frogs. When they leap into a well, the world appears the same. But adaptation is imperative; otherwise, the community risks losing its identity."

In the Muzaffarnagar region alone, comprising 24 villages with a collective voter base of 18 lakh, around one lakh voters, including BJP loyalists, are boycotting Sanjeev Balyan.

Accusations against the BJP include sidelining Rajputs, perpetuating social disparities, and failing to foster development.

The heart of the issue seems to lie in the contentious process of ticket distribution, with Adityanath's supporters encountering obstacles in western UP. A prominent leader articulated the prevailing sentiment, questioning the fairness of the process: "Do considerations extend beyond certain factions? Would protests persist if the Model Code of Conduct was in force? While large gatherings of Thakurs protest, stringent limitations are imposed elsewhere. Adityanath's supporters feel neglected, fueling their grievances."

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: To What Extent Will BJP Face the Impact of Rajput Community Dissent in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh?
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Thakurs are among the most powerful groups in these villages, followed by Muslims, while Jats are in very few numbers. Before Adityanath's rally, a Rajput mahapanchayat was organized in Nanauta, Saharanpur. Another mahapanchayat is scheduled to be held in Kheda village of Meerut on April 16.

The BJP has given a ticket to Raghav Lakhanpal, a Brahmin leader, from Saharanpur, although he lost in 2019. It has also awarded tickets to three sitting MPs: Sanjeev Balyan, Pradeep Chaudhary (a Gurjar leader from Kairana), and Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi (an OBC leader from Rampur). The RLD candidate is contesting elections in Bijnor. Jitin Prasad, the candidate from Pilibhit, is a Brahmin, while Nagina is a reserved seat. The only constituency in western UP where a Thakur is a candidate from the BJP is Moradabad, with the party nominating Sarvesh Singh, who lost in 2019.

The BJP has fielded Atul Garg as its candidate from Ghaziabad, replacing former Army Chief VK Singh. Singh had won the elections in 2014 and 2019, securing 61.93% and 56.51% of the vote share, respectively.

The BJP is attempting to assuage the anger of the Thakurs. Before Yogi Adityanath, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh had also held rallies in Saharanpur on April 10 and Ghaziabad on April 3.

During Adityanath's Rardhana rally, when he raised the slogan of 'Vote for Baliyan', many people indicated 'No' by waving their hands. Some youths standing behind said, “This crowd is for Baba. Baliyan can't even come here." Sensing the mood of the crowd, Baliyan cut short his address and handed over the microphone to Yogi Adityanath.

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Thakur figure of the region and two-time BJP MLA Sangeet Singh Som was also present on the stage. Many in the Rajput community believe that Som's surprising defeat to Samajwadi Party's Atul Pradhan from Sardhana in the 2022 assembly elections was due to Sanjeev Baliyan.

Some also speculate that Som, regarded as the leader of the Thakurs, faces opposition from Baliyan, who seeks to maintain his dominance. Addressing the discontent, Adityanath said, “We must set aside personal differences and prioritize the nation. All you need to do is choose the lotus.”

In his maiden election from Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha in 2014, Sanjeev Balyan secured victory by a margin exceeding 4 lakhs, capturing 59% of the votes. At that time, BSP's Qadir Rana (a Muslim candidate) trailed in second place with 22.77% of the votes. Rana is now affiliated with the SP. BJP's Meerut district president Shiv Kumar Rana, hailing from Rardhana village, noted the party's efforts to accommodate leaders.

He remarked, “Our Western UP president is a Rajput. I am a Rajput, and our Moradabad candidate is a Thakur. While I personally believe that considering our population in the area, there could have been another Thakur candidate, sometimes we must be content. It's also true that we previously held more positions than our numbers warranted.”

Shiv Kumar asserts his efforts to engage in dialogue with the Rajput community, aiming to establish communication channels. Meanwhile, the Samajwadi Party, contesting elections in alliance with the Congress, has nominated a Jat candidate, Harendra Singh Malik, from Muzaffarnagar. Zia Chaudhary, SP's Muzaffarnagar President, indicates their strategy to leverage the Thakurs' discontent. He states, “I won't claim all the votes, but our workers are engaging with villagers, and I anticipate around 40% of Thakurs supporting us.”

While the RLD is predominantly a Jat-oriented party, Sandeep Malik, RLD district president, rebuffs attributing the Thakurs' dissatisfaction to the BJP alliance. He remarks, “The common voter is with us. Thakurs and Jats stand united.”

Discontent lingers within the Kshatriya community in Gujarat despite Union Minister Parshottam  Rupala's apology, with demands for his candidature withdrawal persisting.
Discontent lingers within the Kshatriya community in Gujarat despite Union Minister Parshottam Rupala's apology, with demands for his candidature withdrawal persisting.

Challenges in Gujarat

Amidst protests from the Kshatriya community in Gujarat following Union Minister Parshottam Rupala's controversial remarks, the BJP faces a challenging scenario in the state. CR Patil, the party's Rajkot Lok Sabha candidate and state president, acknowledged the gravity of the situation, emphasizing that there's no immediate fix.

Patil underscored ongoing discussions with protesters, expressing optimism in finding a resolution. Addressing BJP workers, he attributed past electoral victories to their dedication rather than relying on quick fixes, rallying support for the upcoming elections.

Despite challenges, Patil exuded confidence in securing all 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat with a significant margin. However, discontent lingers within the Kshatriya community despite Rupala's apology, with demands for his candidature withdrawal persisting. Patil remains committed to dialogue with community leaders to address grievances.

Internal discord is evident within the Gujarat BJP, with growing discontent among workers and the Kshatriya community intensifying protests against Rupala's candidacy. This unrest threatens the party's anticipated sweep of all Lok Sabha seats, highlighting cracks in its once-unified front.

In candidate selections, outgoing MP Ranjan Bhatt was replaced by the relatively unknown Hemang Joshi in Vadodara, while Shobhana Baraiya, a former primary school teacher, replaced Bhikhaji Thakor in Sabarkantha. Despite concerns over candidates' popularity, the party remains confident in victory.

With a commanding majority in the state assembly, the BJP faces weakened opposition. However, ongoing protests by the Kshatriya community pose challenges, particularly in Rajkot and Saurashtra, where Patels hold significant influence. Despite potential opposition, sources indicate Rupala's steadfastness in maintaining his candidacy.

-Translated by Geetha Sunil Pillai

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