Jat leaders from across the country Sunday called for the defeat of the BJP in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls unless their demand for reservation was met. Gathered under the banner of the All India Jat Arakshan Bachao Maha Andolan (AIJABMA), leaders from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh said that the government had cheated the community by not accepting its demand for quota and giving forward castes 10 per cent reservation “within seven days” instead.
Almost three years after the Jat agitation for reservation turned violent in Haryana leaving almost 30 dead, leaders from UP asserted that they will ask their community to vote for Mayawati in the state saying that the BSP chief was the only UP leader who had supported reservation for Jats and criticised the action taken by the government against Jats in the 2016 agitation in Haryana.
“The UPA government had given us reservation in central jobs. But when it was challenged in the Supreme Court, the present NDA government deliberately did not argue our case well and the government order was quashed. Since then, the Narendra Modi government has just been giving us assurances. I warn the government that Jats won’t be manipulated anymore. We will campaign in 131 constituencies where Jats have a significant population to defeat the BJP,” said Dharamveer Chaudhary, Chief Coordinator of AIJABM said at a press briefing in Delhi.
Vital vote bank in four states
Though they account for only around 3% of the population, Jats form a significant portion of the electorate in at least four northern states. With the 10% EWS quota cleared, leaders believe they can now press for reservation, which otherwise would have run up against the 50% cap.
He said that the organisation has asked the community to welcome their MPs with “shoes” as they have failed to raise the issue of Jat reservations in Parliament. According to Chaudhary, the Centre had formed a committee for Jat reservations under BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu in 2015, but the committee has not met even once.
Jat leaders also mentioned various meetings they had with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah on the issue. These included a meeting with the Prime Minister in March 2015 and one held between Jat leaders and BJP President Amit Shah just ahead of the UP elections.
“The Prime Minister met us on March 26, 2015, at his residence and said you are a brave community and we will give you reservation in a proper way. Ahead of the UP polls, Amit Shah said we will give you reservation and we voted for BJP. But BJP did not walk the talk,” said Chaudhary.
Dr Prem Kumar, another Jat leader, said, “We have held thousands of meetings and rallies. So many of our boys are in jail. But nothing has happened. When it came to giving reservation to the forward castes, the government has finalised everything in seven days. We have been agitating for years. In Haryana, this is going to be the core issue. It will have political implications.”
Chaudhary said Jats would vote for anybody who supported them. “Our appeal is to vote for those who talk about our rights. In UP, Mayawati has supported our cause and said Jats must get reservation. She had also attacked the government for taking brutal action against agitators in Haryana.”
Some Jat leaders also called the government anti-farmer and said they should be defeated since they have not worked for the agriculture sector. One leader said, “Don’t give us reservation. But give us the right price for our crops at least.”
Several Jat leaders at the gathering, however, were equally critical of the BJP and Congress in failing to address the concerns of the Jat community. Some, such as Subhas Dabas from Delhi, expressed exasperation at all parties and said Jats should form a new party.
He also criticised Jat leaders for compromising on demands after meeting top leaders of the government. “But we are sure this time we will not give our vote to anyone just like that,” he said.