While Punjab has been a witness to such scenes, in the BJP’s bastion of western Uttar Pradesh also saffron leaders are facing resistance in their attempts to “reach-out” to their support base, especially Jats in rural areas.
The historic Sauram or Shoram village in Muzaffarnagar today witnessed clashes between villagers and leaders/supporters of BJP during a visit of Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan.
According to Prof Sudhir Panwar several farmers suffered injuries during the clash.
“What we were suspecting has started happening,” said Panwar, a Samajwadi Party leader from Bhainswal (Shamli).
According to BKU’s Dharmendra Malik, the head of ‘Jawla khap’ Sachin Chaudhary “refused” to meet Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan “who was trying to get in touch with him at the behest of Home Minister Amit Shah”.
In a video posted by Malik, Chaudhary can be heard saying that “no one from the ruling BJP should try to meet him individually. They should meet the Samyukta Kisan Morcha and their decision will be final (regarding the agitation against the three farm laws)”.
Panwar, a Samajwadi Party leader from Bhainswal (Shamli) which “resisted/banned” the entry of Balyan, UP Cabinet minister Bhupendra Chaudhary and Shamli MLA Tejinder Nirwal yesterday, says farmers of western UP are upset due to “BJP’s attempts to divide the agitation on the basis of caste and Jats”.
Bhainswal is headquarter of 32 villages khaps. The February 5 ‘mahapanchayat’ there in opposition of farm laws saw the participation of members of non-Jat, Dalits and Muslims along with Jats.
“In a democracy every person has the right to expression, therefore ban on entry of leaders of a particular party is not the democratic way but people are angry,” says Panwar.
The support to farmers’ agitation from “non-Jats and Muslims” is threatening to upset the saffron party’s carefully crafted caste equations on the back of which it had been winning elections in the state.
After the 2013 Muzzafarnagar riots, western UP region witnessed a deep polarisation with Hindu Jats, non-Jats, and Dalits gravitating towards the BJP.
Speaking as an independent observer, Prof Panwar explains that BKU leader Rakesh Tikait and RLD’s Jayant Chaudhary are both Jats and most of ‘mahapanchayats’ have been in and around Jat-dominated districts.
“BJP’s Jat leaders have been asked to use their influence in dousing the agitation through the “Khaps’ informal social leadership”.
The BJP’s strategy is two pronged — reduce and brand farmers’ agitation as Jat agitation so that other rural castes associated with it because of economic reasons feel isolated as seen during the reservation agitation in Haryana. The second is to divide Jats along party line in the backdrop of RLD and Congress’ ‘mahapanchayats’.
However, people in villages are angry and this strategy is unlikely to succeed as agitation is not limited to Jats,” says Panwar.
The central leadership has asked Jat leaders from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan to reach out to the community at the ‘khap’ levels and ensure that “they do not feel alienated from the BJP”.