July 2, 2022 8:13:21 am
In a bid to reach out to the youth discontented with Agnipath, the Centre’s short-term soldiers’ recruitment scheme, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) has been holding a series of meetings, called “Yuva Panchayats”, in Western Uttar Pradesh, its only remaining stronghold, where the party leadership “explains the drawbacks of the scheme” and “appeals for peaceful protests”.
In the recent Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the RLD had fielded 33 candidates in an alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP), managing to win eight from the Jat-dominated Western UP – a jump from one seat in the 2017 Assembly polls. This was attributed to the party’s continuous mobilisation during protests against the farm laws that were then raging in the region.
Hoping to replicate it on the Agnipath issue, the RLD has scheduled nine meetings in this regard for this month.
The first of such meetings was held in Shamli on June 28, in which party president Jayant Chaudhary and other office bearers, including ex-servicemen, participated. Addressing the gathering, Chaudhary had said: “The scheme (Agnipath) was brought without any discussion. This will break the back of the Army. It seems like they (the BJP) are selling and privatising everything, they are going to sell the Army too. The youth won’t be able to get training in four years… There will be two parts in the Army – one of permanent soldiers and the other of Agniveers. If a war happens, then who will fight?”
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A senior RLD leader told The Indian Express that the party was trying to replicate the protests against the farm laws in the region, adding that “The movement (against farm laws) was strong and peaceful. The Centre had to withdraw the laws just before UP polls. Our party held many panchayats in support of the farmers and now, we are doing the same for the youth who want to join the Army and serve the nation”.
The RLD’s spokesperson Surendra Nath Trivedi said the idea behind these meetings was primarily to draw the youth towards the party. “Which party doesn’t want the youth to be with them? And if we stand with them today at a difficult time, they will see us as their guardians. Hence, we started this campaign. During these meetings, different party leaders explain to the youth how they can take forward their movement in a peaceful manner. One of the basic principles we are trying to teach the youth is that they must remain peaceful during this agitation,” he said.
The party is holding Yuva Panchayats in the backdrop of UP witnessing several protests against the Agnipath scheme announced on June 14, with more than 500 people being arrested so far in connection with the violence during the agitation.
The proposed RLD meetings are to be held in Muzaffarnagar (July 3), Bijnor (July 4), Bulandshahr (July 6), Amroha (July 8), Moradabad (July 9), Aligarh (July 11), Agra (July 12), Ghaziabad (July 14), and Baghpat (July 16), where the future course of the anti-Agnipath agitation will be decided, according to an RLD leader.
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