Home Top Stories Congress alliance in Rajasthan set to pose challenge to BJP in Jat belt

Congress alliance in Rajasthan set to pose challenge to BJP in Jat belt

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Congress alliance in Rajasthan set to pose challenge to BJP in Jat belt

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Rashtriya Loktantrik Party’s Hanuman Beniwal. File
| Photo Credit: PTI

The Opposition Congress’s decision to enter into an alliance in Rajasthan with two parties for the Lok Sabha election is set to pose a challenge to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Jat belt. The politically influential Jat community, which was a traditional adherent of Congress, has largely shifted its support to the BJP during the last decade, as the saffron party swept the 2014 and 2019 general elections by winning all the 25 seats in the State.

The Congress has extended support to Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) chief Hanuman Beniwal in Nagaur and Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Amra Ram in Sikar, both of whom have been fielded as the INDIA bloc’s candidates. Both Mr. Beniwal and Mr. Ram belong to the Jat community.

Besides the two candidates, the Congress has given tickets to six Jats in the constituencies where the community has a significant population. They include Rahul Kaswan (Jhunjhunu), who resigned both as an MP and from the BJP’s primary membership, and Ummeda Ram Beniwal (Barmer), who left the RLP and joined Congress.

In the Jat belt largely spreading from Barmer in western Rajasthan to Sriganganagar in the north, through Nagaur district and the Shekhawati region, the issues of minimum support price (MSP) for crops, remunerative prices for agricultural produce, electoral bonds, Agniveer scheme, and the recent wrestlers’ protest have started dominating the public discourse. Jats comprise about 14% of the State’s population.

Congress on crutches: BJP

The BJP, which has fielded six Jat candidates in the State, has questioned the Congress’s alliance and the nomination of INDIA bloc’s candidates. BJP State president C.P. Joshi said at an election rally of Churu candidate Devendra Jhajharia that the alliance had proved that the Congress, weakened by its internal squabbles, had “come on crutches”.

BJP’s Jyoti Mirdha will face a major challenge from Mr. Beniwal in Nagaur as the latter has emerged as a tall leader of Jats since his victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Amid the caste equations in the region where Jats comprise 70% of the population in the six Assembly constituencies, Mr. Beniwal enjoys an immense popularity among the youth and his RLP has gained roots among the masses.

The alliance with the CPI(M) in Sikar – once considered a bastion of Left parties – is expected to benefit the Congress even in the adjoining constituencies. Mr. Ram, who has been in the forefront of the farmers’ agitation in Shekhawati region, enjoys the image of being a fighter for the rights of farmers, Dalits, women and youth.

Youth disillusioned

Sikar-based political analyst Ashfaq Kayamkhani told The Hindu on Wednesday that the debate over the Agniveer scheme would influence the Jat voters, as almost every family of the community has been associated with the armed forces. The coaching centres that used to prepare youngsters for Army recruitment have closed down after the scheme was implemented and the youth are said to be disillusioned with the new concept of Tour of Duty or Agnipath scheme.

Dalit and Muslim voters, who have a significant presence in the Jat belt, are also likely to play an important role in the election as their support to the farming community will tilt the balance. However, the Congress has not given tickets to any Muslim candidate this time. The atmosphere building up in favour of Congress in the Jat belt will also make an impact on the seats such as Jaipur Rural, Alwar and Jalore-Sirohi.

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