In battle for Rajasthan, Jats hold key to political fortunes for Vasundhara Raje, Congress

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Published: November 5, 2018 2:13:43 PM

Leaders from both the national parties admit that Jat voters are a dominant force in 90 out of the 200 seats in Rajasthan.

The elections in Rajasthan are scheduled to take place on December 7, 2018. (PTI)

Rajasthan is just a month away from assembly polls and the Congress, which has a better chance of dethroning incumbent chief minister Vasundhara Raje, is yet to decide on its face in the state. There is a strong feeling among the people that the party won’t name the chief ministerial candidate as it fears a backlash from the Jat community — which forms the largest electorate with over 15 per cent population.

This Jat community has the ability to swing the elections either way, yet no leader from the community could make up to the post of the Chief Minister of the state. According to a report in The Indian Express, Rajasthan has never seen a Jat Chief Minister since its first Assembly polls in 1952. Still, no political party can form the government in Rajasthan without the support of Jat voters.

Traditionally, the Jat community has voted for the Congress, except in 2003 when they ditched the grand old party for not promoting sole Jat leader Parasram Maderna. According to the IE report, senior Congress leaders in the state believe that the relationship between the Jat community and the party soured after 1998.

“Jats voted for Congress in 1998 and helped the party win 150 seats with the hope that Parasram Maderna, a popular Jat leader, will be made the chief minister. But the CM’s post ultimately went to Ashok Gehlot,” a senior Congress leader told IE. Reacting to this, Jats switched sides five years later to the BJP and voted against the Gehlot government in 2003. The Congress was reduced from 150 to 56 seats.

However, leaders from Congress and BJP blame the community for not producing leaders who can match their predecessors in Rajasthan. A senior BJP leader said that the state has not seen leaders such as the Mirdhas or Maderna and the next generation of Jat leaders couldn’t appropriate their legacies. “Although there are individual faces such as Congress’s Rameshwar Dudi, Leader of Opposition in Assembly, or Jat MLAs in BJP, the community doesn’t have a mass leader today,” he said.

According to the report, leaders from both the national parties admit that Jat voters are a dominant force in 90 out of the 200 seats in Rajasthan. A BJP leader told IE that Jats will play a decisive role in districts such as Sikar, Jhunjhunu, Churu, Bharatpur, Dholpur, Nagaur, Ajmer, Sriganganagar, Hanumangarh, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Barmer and Jaisalmer.

Ahead of the crucial polls, Rajasthan Jat Mahasabha President Raja Ram Meel has said that no party can take Jat voters for granted. “There is an advantage to Congress because of anti-incumbency and BJP’s decisions such as demonetisation owing to which many farmers suffered. But the community hopes that more tickets are given to Jat candidates. Neither party can take us for granted,” he told IE.

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