Rahul Gandhi went out of his way to accommodate Ajit Singhs RLD in seat shares,and this has led to a rebellion in Fatehpur Sikri where the alliance candidate now finds himself struggling.
The Congress initially fielded Rajkumar Chahar,then gave the seat to the RLD on Ajits insistence. The RLD has now fielded Chaudhary Babu Lal,while an indignant Chahar has jumped into the fray as an Independent,which is where Babu Lals problems begin.
Chahar has a strong grip on the constituency,considered a stronghold of Raj Babbars. He finished runner-up in the last Assembly elections,ahead of Babu Lal. Chahar himself used to be in the RLD,its Agra district president,before joining the Congress.
In 2009,when Raj Babbar contested from the Lok Sabha seat of Fatehpur Sikri,Chahar anchored the Congresss efforts in this Assembly segment. Fatehpur Sikri turned out to be the only segment where Babbar led,14,000 votes ahead of his BSP rival,in an election that he lost by less than 10,000.
Indeed,Babbar pushed for Chahars candidature as part of Rahul Gandhis Utho,Jago,Badlo Uttar Pradesh mission and helped fetch him the Congress ticket in the first list. Then,Rahuls mission felt the need for Ajit Singh.
I was there when Rahul called party candidates to a meeting in Lucknow. Talks of an alliance with Ajit Singh were doing the rounds, Chahar told The Indian Express. I voiced my apprehensions before Rahul,The RLD will claim my seat,but I promise you I will win this one for your mission.
Chahar said he got complete silence from Rahul. I sensed it coming, Chahar said while campaigning in villages dominated by backward communities.
The Congresss sacrifice of Chahar came after several months of his being described as Rahul and Babbars candidate. Babbar,it is said,did not press for Chahars candidature beyond a point because of Rahuls eagerness about an alliance with Ajit.
Chahar and Babu Lal both belong to the Jat community. Babu Lal once won as an Independent after Ajit Singh denied him a ticket. Rajkumar too will independently because Ajit Singh has got his ticket cancelled, said Basudev Indoli,a Jat from Kiravali,which the community terms a mini Chapruali after the Jat bastion of Charan Singh.
Ajit Singhs son Jayant Chaudhary and Babbar had addressed a meeting in Kiravali a couple of days earlier. Yet,Chahars supporters say,they could not get the entire peasant Jat community to back Babu Lal,despite the Jats anger with sitting MLA Surajpal Singh of the BSP. The likely split in the Jat vote can only help the MLA,a Thakur.
Had only Chahar been contesting for the Congress,not much effort would have been needed. Now both (Chahar and Babu Lal) must work hard,for the BSPs base vote is already with Surajpal, said Deepak Singh,a lecturer in a local college. He is a Babbar fan,not affiliated to any party,and is now supporting Chahar.
Babu Lal has got Ajit Singh,Jayant and Babbar to canvass for him to help consolidate his Jat support base. Chahar is campaigning at the homes of non-Jat castes like Kushwahas,Lodh-Rajputs,Gaderias and Kumhars.
The fact that Chahar chose not to go with the SP or the BJP has won him the respect of several Jat voters,besides earning him the status of a martyr. The February 23 poll is,therefore,also a test of Ajit Singhs hold over his Jat support base.