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Explained: Jat and non-Jat, two vote banks that can swing Haryana

Mukesh Bhardwaj explains the politics around the Jat community in Haryana.

Updated: October 22, 2014 1:48:40 am


How are Jats distributed in Haryana?

Jats constitute about 28 per cent of the state’s population (25 per cent of the electorate) and are distributed all over the state. Only SCs at a combined 21 per cent come close. Barring northern Haryana, the Jats have strongholds everywhere. Their strength is particularly high in central Haryana, which includes Rohtak. They also have a significant presence in Hisar, Bhiwani, Jind, Sirsa and Sonepat.

How dominant are they?

They are considered a forward caste, particularly in rural areas, though then chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had included Jats among OBCs amid demands that they had been historically oppressed. Members of the community are among the state’s wealthiest people, though their individual land holdings have been slashed over the years. They carry on with their social dominance because of their headcount.

Is the Jat vote as crucial as politicians make it out to be?

Jats are usually seen as electing or overthrowing Jat leaders. Former chief minister O P Chautala was voted out by Jats. Hooda’s fall is now being attributed to Jat votes outside of Rohtak and Jhajjar.

What gives Jats their ability to swing an election?

They have a social structure that sees them voting en bloc. They run educational institutes, carry out social initiatives and have khaps that make many decisions binding.

Is 25 per cent enough?

Not always. The fact that non-Jats outnumber Jats is something politicians have often played on; many parties are identified as Jat or non-Jat. The BJP has come to power on the basis of its identity as a non-Jat partym, and it has indeed selected a non-Jat CM. The BJP did field 25 Jat candidates, a record for the party.

Did the Jat vote dictate in the recent election verdict?

According to a post-poll survey by Lokniti-CSDS and published in this newspaper, areas with a high Jat population went against the BJP, yet it came to power. Of 37 seats where Jats number over 25 per cent, the BJP won only nine while the Congress bagged 12 and the INLD 11. The inference is that the BJP successfully consolidated the non-Jat vote, winning 38 of the 53 seats where Jats number 25 per cent or lower.

How do khaps work?

Jats follow an organised caste system that divides the community into gotras. Their social system prevents marriages within the same gotra. Khaps decide on such social issues and pass binding diktats. They are also known to run a parallel justice system whose controversial decisions have often made news. Crucially, khaps also take a political stand during elections.

Who have represented the Jat leadership?

Jats consider Sir Chhotu Ram, a minister in undivided Punjab, to be their leader. All important leaders claim his legacy. Veteran Congress leader Birender Singh, who joined the BJP before the assembly elections, is a grandson of Chhotu Ram. But the Jat leadership has split over the years.

Which parties have later leaders represented?

Former deputy prime minister Devi Lal became a powerful Jat leader among non-Congress parties, while former chief minister Bansi Lal was accepted as a Jat leader of the Congress. Their areas of influence were Sirsa and Bhiwani respectively. Before Hooda emerged as the Jat leader from Rohtak, the votes in the Jat heartland use to split between Devi Lal and Bansi Lal. Devi Lal’s legacy went to INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala, and Bansi Lal’s to his daughter-in-law Kiran Choudhary.

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