New Delhi: “Am I a coin, which will flip?” An old video of Jayant Chaudhary has resurfaced on social media — with people reminding the Rashtriya Lok Dal chief about his old assertion amid hints that his party might join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
It was 2022, and campaigning for the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP) was in full swing. Voting for 58 western UP seats was scheduled to be held on February 10. With the repeal of three contentious farm laws, the BJP had revealed all its cards to ensure victory.
Speculations were rife that the RLD, which has influence in the sugarcane belt of the state, can switch sides and contest the polls in an alliance with the BJP — divorcing its old ally, Samajwadi Party (SP).
But 14 days before the elections, on January 27, 2022, Jayant’s statement came that he is not a “chavanni (25-paise coin), which will turn”. “It’s about our honour,” he had told a poll rally in Muzaffarnagar.
His remarks had come after Union Home Minister Amit Shah publicly said that BJP’s doors were open for him.
Sharing the video after 25 months, people are taking a jibe at the young leader after the latter’s newfound love for Prime Minister Narendra Modi following BJP’s bid to lure the RLD into its fold by announcing the ‘Bharat Ratna’ for Jayant’s late grandfather Chaudhary Charan Singh (a former prime minister).
“Dil jeet liya (won heart),” he wrote on X (formerly Twitter), reacting to PM Modi’s post — announcing the country’s highest civilian award for the farmer leader. Further hinting at his leaning towards the BJP, Jayant, while replying to queries by journalists on the possible RLD-BJP alliance post announcement of the Bharat Ratna, stated, “Ab kis munh se mana karun (how can I refuse now)?”
When one of the media persons reminded Jayant of his remarks from 2022, the leader shrugged it off, saying, "These are all trivial matters. I am ready to tolerate them. I want to see the welfare of my people. In 2022, I said that I am not a 25-paise coin to flip. But those are all election talks. And whatever the opposition says before the elections, people forget it anyway."
His statement cleared the air and put an end to all the ifs and buts of the speculated RLD-BJP alliance. Only a formal announcement in this regard is yet to come.
The RLD has been demanding the honour for its icon for many years.
People close to the development are saying that the deal has already been done. Sources also revealed the seat-sharing formula: the RLD will contest from Bagpat and Bijnor and get a seat in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of the Parliament). The party’s MLAs, they say, will be given ministerial berths in the state government.
Another strong indication, suggesting that the RLD is going to the NDA fold, came after the party MLAs decided to join their counterparts in the saffron party in going to visit the newly built Ram temple in Ayodhya even as the SP has maintained distance from the UP government’s invite for the same.
The party joining the NDA is nothing new. It has a history of changing allegiance as per political expediency. And therefore, when Jayant said he would not switch sides, many had doubted that he would walk the talk.
On January 19, Akhilesh and Jayant held a joint press conference, and the former congratulated the latter for the SP-RLD alliance. The same day, the SP chief announced his party’s candidates for the Lok Sabha elections — which is round the corner.
He had left seven seats for the RLD.
Political analysts are seeing the development as a big blow to the Congress-led INDIA alliance, which has been formed to challenge NDA in the Lok Sabha elections.
Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Nayay Yatra’ in the next few days is about to enter Uttar Pradesh — where the Congress is in alliance with the SP although the seat-sharing between the two parties has not been announced yet. The RLD too was part of this alliance.
Jayant had given indications of a rift between the SP and the RLD earlier as well, but no clear statement had come from the SP’s side in this regard.
Amid reports of the RLD joining the NDA fold, SP chief and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav told the media, “There has been no formal communication between us. Whatever is happening is being published in newspapers. So, we are getting the information through you only.”
Senior SP leader Shivpal Singh Yadav said, “We know Jayant as well as his father (late former Union minister Chaudhary Ajit Singh) — with whom I have worked with. His father never let the farmers’ fight weaken. We hope the same from Jayant as well.”
Was everything going well between the Congress, the SP and the RLD? The recently held Assembly elections do not indicate it.
In Madhya Pradesh election, the Congress refused to tie with the SP, and Akhilesh publicly expressed his unhappiness. While there was a rift between the Congress and the SP in MP, the former contested the Rajasthan poll in alliance with the RLD.
Jayant campaigned for the Congress in Telangana where the grand old party registered a victory — uprooting the Bharat Rashtra Samithi government. When Jayant was seen canvassing with Congress MP Imran Pratapgarhi in Muslim-dominated Hyderabad, the question arose as to why the RLD chief was there — was it a new strategy to put pressure on the SP?
After the RLD apparently joined hands with the BJP, the strength and effectiveness of the INDIA alliance has come under question.
“The INDIA block has its own problems due to which its allies are not able to unite. And therefore, in this situation, it is very easy to break into it. Jayant and Akhilesh were not talking for a long time. Akhilesh did the same to Jayant as he alleges the Congress does to the SP — the attitude of being big brother,” political analyst and senior journalist Sharat Pradhan told The Mooknayak, adding that though the SP allotted seven seats to the RLD just for namesake.
Out of the seven, he said, the SP wanted to field its four candidates to fight the election on the RLD symbol. It means, the Jayant’s party was in fact given only three seats. “This was unacceptable to Jayant,” he said.
The second point of contention was the Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha seat. The RLD chief wanted to contest from here as his father had lost it by a thin margin of just 6,000 (6,526) votes in the 2019 general elections, said Pradhan, alleging that the defeat was ensured with “manipulations”.
“Jayant was sure that he would win if he contested the upcoming poll from the constituency, which has a significant population of Jats (the community with which the RLD supremo belongs to). But the SP was not ready for it. Meanwhile, PM Modi — who is an expert in luring Opposition leaders — played a master card by announcing the ‘Bharat Ratna’ for Chaudhary Charan Singh, which of late seems to have become a new currency,” he added.
The Jat-dominated region also has a sizable population of Muslims, OBCs (combined) and Dalits. Western Uttar Pradesh (from Saharanpur to Agra) has 27 Lok Sabha seats. Farmers’ issues rule the roost in this agrarian belt.
Of the three seats it contested in the region in the 2019 elections, the RLD had failed to win even one even though it had fought in an alliance with the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The BJP had won the highest 19 seats in the sugarcane belt, while the SP and the BSP seacured 4 seats each.
Jayant had lost the election from his ancestral constituency of Bagpat.
Similarly, his party, which had fought on eight seats, could not open its account in the 2014 polls as well. Facing defeats in the consecutive two Lok Sabha elections, Jayant perhaps wants to revive his politics by allying with the BJP.
It had won five of the seven Lok Sabha seats it contested in 2009 in ties with the saffron party, registering the party’s best ever parliamentary poll performance in terms of the number of seats.
Politics is a realm where alliances shift rapidly, turning adversaries into allies and vice versa in the blink of an eye. Friendship and enmity are often transient, with no permanence. It's a reminder for supporters, especially those engaged in social media battles, to remain mindful of this dynamic nature of politics.