Taking their merger move forward, JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and RLD president Ajit Singh met here Friday and decided to hold a joint rally in Meerut later this month. The luncheon meeting was also attended by JD(U) secretary-general K C Tyagi and Ajit Singh’s son and RLD general secretary Jayant Chaudhary.
Sources said the proposed rally, set to culminate in the launch of a yatra of western UP by Jayant, will be flagged off by Nitish. Thereafter, leaders of the two parties will address public meetings in Basti and Varanasi, both in eastern UP.
Sources said that during the meeting, Jayant expressed a desire to go on a tour across western UP, addressing rallies en route. All leaders endorsed the idea. It was not clear if he would undertake a long march or a motorised tour.
Jayant (37) represented the Mathura constituency in Lok Sabha from 2009 to 2014. A postgraduate from the London School of Economics, he lost the seat to Hema Malini in the last election.
Sources said there was agreement among the leaders to revive Charan Singh’s legacy to provide an ideological anchor to the proposed unified party. They felt time was ripe for the purpose. One, peasantry was under stress due to failure of the NDA government to increase support prices of farm produce. Two, there was a complete vacuum as far as rural voice was concerned and farmers had realised that they needed a strong party, something akin to the vintage Lok Dal led by Charan Singh, to get a fair deal. Three, the Jats were disenchanted with BJP over its apathy towards the community’s demand for OBC status. Four, UP’s sugarcane farmers were agitated because of non-payment of dues by mill-owners and the government’s refusal to effectively intervene.
The JD(U)-RLD combine had decided to concentrate on western UP to start with because the area did not have a sizeable presence of the Yadav community. The Jat-Muslim schism in the whole belt due to Muzaffarnagar riots did pose a challenge to the RLD because it ran counter to Charan Singh’s legacy, who drew his strength from a coalition of both communities. But, a source said Ajit Singh’s immediate goal was to retrieve his Jat voter base from BJP. With Nitish on his side at the Meerut rally, he was hopeful of making a headway in winning back Muslims too.
Sources said Nitish was also wooing two other UP-centric outfits — Peace Party and Apna Dal. The Peace Party has four members in UP Assembly, half the number RLD has. Apna Dal has a following among Kurmis. JD(U) and RLD may be far from emerging as a full-fledged fourth pole in the coming polls as of now, but their combined flexing of muscles is sure to worry SP, BSP and BJP.