It is around 8 pm and a number of Jat voters have gathered at the village chaupal in Kotvan,on the UP-Haryana border and part of Mathuras Chhata constituency.
Agriculture Minister Choudhary Laxminarayan,the ruling BSPs Jat face and its nominee for Chhata,is on test here and pleading his case. With the BSP having been the target of agitations against land acquisition in various parts of Western UP,his audience wants to hear how he justifies being in that party.
It is not the first time Laxminarayan has had to woo his own. He is the man whom Chief Minister Mayawati had used as a crisis manager during the agitations against various projects,including the Yamuna Expressway,at several places in the states Jat-dominant areas of Aligarh,Mathura,Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddha Nagar. He headed the BSP political team that went around telling the Jats that the Mayawati government was not anti-farmer,that it would ensure they got the right rates for their land.
In Chhata itself,no village was affected by land acquisition. Yet,villagers here share a general sense of solidarity with those whose land was acquired against their wish. Hence,a year on,Laxminarayan sounds desperate as he tells Jat voters how much he needs them. Suppose I am a bride and I fail to ensure the presence of my family at my wedding…, he appeals.
One of the ministers problems is that the RLDs Ajit Singh,who has joined hands with the Congress,is a taller Jat leader. Ajit Singh has fielded Tejpal Singh,who is a Thakur,and this is what gives Laxminarayan an argument against him.
There is a doctor saheb sitting here. Please ask him what will happen if he gives group A blood to someone whose blood group is B. It would lead to a damaging reaction, he says.
He then displays a page from a Hindi newspaper,where a page advertises the joint election meetings of Rahul Gandhi and Ajit Singh in the area. Look at this, he says. The picture of Chaudhari Saheb (Ajit Singhs father Charan Singh,an icon for Jats) is placed even below Rahul Gandhis. Chaudhari Saheb is a minister,he has been placed below Rahul.
He attacks Ajit Singh next: Are Lord Rama or Lord Krishna revered for their sons? It is the followers who keep alive the names of great men,he says. He then tells them how much he has done: I had a large statue of Chaudhari Saheb installed in Koshi Kalan during Kalyan Singhs tenure. As jail minister,I named the Meerut jail after Chaudhari Saheb because he spent time there during the freedom movement.
He winds it up with,I wont leave the village without getting the blessings of the elders. Please bless me. I am standing here at your chaupal.
Finally,two of the elders,Master Lal Singh and Chandan Singh,walk up to the dais. It seems the minister has made his request very well. He should be given an opportunity, Lal Singh tells the gathering. Many nod.
Laxminarayan has apparently passed the test. But he does not leave until everyone has seen the newspaper advertisement.
Laxminarayan first entered the Assembly in 1985,as a Lok Dal nominee. He was in the Congress when he won Chhata in 1996,followed by his third victory from here in 2007. He has been minister in the cabinets of Kalyan Singh,Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh too.
The BSP has fielded 10 Jat candidates. In 2007,six of its eight Jat candidates won.