‘In UP, an identity shift has happened’

AM Jigeesh Bagpat | Updated on April 01, 2019

Jayant Chaudhary, Vice-President, Rashtriya Lok Dal speaks to BusinessLine about the major issues which are shaping up his party’s campaign.

The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) is hoping to make a comeback after drawing a blank in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. After its failure in its stronghold western Uttar Pradesh in the “polarised” 2014 elections, the party has worked on restoring peace between the Muslims and the Jats — its traditional vote base — which got split after the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. Jayant Chaudhary, the party’s Vice-President, is contesting from Bagpat and is depending on the “social experiment” called the Grand Alliance. He talked to BusinessLine about the major issues which are shaping up his party’s campaign. Excerpts:

Cane arrears seem to be the key point of debate in western UP… is it helping you?

The PM has realised that this [dues] is an issue and has said he will tackle it soon. But he has thanked Yogi Adityanath for paying the arrears of the previous government. This is the usual trait of the BJP — blame the previous governments for its mistakes. The arrears have peaked during the BJP government. Right now, it is ₹13,000 crore, rising from around ₹4,500 crore in March 2017. Interest payment is also pending — the government had said the interest need not be paid for two years. The HC had also ruled in favour of the farmers. Still, the government has not moved. That will be another ₹2,500 crore.

It is an important issue. At least ₹1 lakh to ₹1.5 lakh is owed to each household. Cost of all inputs such as fertilisers, pesticides, labour, electricity, equipment and diesel has gone up. The electricity tariff has been increased twice in the last two years. The household expenditure has gone up. The rural areas are under distress... the indicators are all there.

Moreover, this government’s track record in implementing social sector schemes such as NREGA is very poor. A young landless agriculture labourer, who has migrated to cities to work at construction sites, has lost his job because of demonetisation and the complexities of the GST. The impact is being felt as people have come back to their villages. So, rural wages have gone down consistently.

In the skilled sector too, engineers and MBA graduates are clamouring for menial jobs. The government has suppressed NSSO data and is now talking about superficial data to hide shortcomings.

Can the alliance fight the BJP which got immense support in 2014? Has the situation changed since then?

When you form alliances, it has a social impact. When Mayawati did the bhaichara experiment in the past, connecting various social organisations, she was able to erect not only a political alliance, but also maintained a social fabric.

Today, people with different ideologies are part of this rainbow coalition. They have come together and an identity shift has happened. So, this Hindu-Muslim polarisation won’t happen this time. The Kairana by-poll has demonstrated that.

The alliance was formed also to ensure that farmer-centric politics comes back to the mainstream.

Do you mean to say that farmers are now out of the mainstream discourses of politics?

When you centre the entire political campaign around a personality, then that itself it is devoid of many issues. Sangh Parivar drives that campaign. In their shakhas, they use the aggressive instincts of our youth and give it a direction. This Modi hype is hurting because we no longer we have to talk about farmers. If someone confronts the BJP, even in media, it gets answered with Modi slogans. This is against farmer-centric politics. There is a conspiracy by Sangh Parivar to remove politicians associated to farmersfrom the mainstream of farmer-centric politics.

After Muzaffarnagarnagar riots, how did you buy peace between the two communities?

We tried out of the court settlements. We tried to make people talk to each other and ensured that small incidents do not get conflagrated. There should be someone control the situation. Ahead of the Rajasthan election, there was a conspiracy to create a communal conflict in Bulandshahr. But it didn’t lead to any incidents outside the city.

Published on March 31, 2019

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