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Watch out UP: The Jat fire may singe you too

Atul Chandra | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:45 IST
QUICK PILL

The issue

  • Jats of western UP support quota demand in Haryana
  • Jat leaders warn the situation may go out of hand

The background

  • Jats enjoy quota in UP despite an SC order to the opposite
  • Haryana and Rajasthan don\'t have such an arrangement

More in the story

  • Legal points involved in Jat quota
  • How can the issue affect politics in the region

As the Jat agitation for reservation spread in Haryana, its effect was felt in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh where members of the community came out in support of the demand. The state government had to gear up for a likely fallout on the law-and-order situation.

Para-military forces and the Provincial Armed Constabulary was deployed at Kairana and Bidoli check posts, bordering Haryana, after khap panchayats in western UP decided to disrupt traffic.

"Either completely abolish reservation or extend it to Jats as well," Rakesh Tikait of Bharatiya Kisan Union said.

'Either completely abolish reservation or extend it to Jats as well'

The Jat leader said he won't be able to restrain the public in the area for more than two days: "The Union government should resolve the issue through negotiations. If not, they will lose out."

By "losing out" Tikait obviously hinted at a political fallout of the agitation in the UP Assembly election due next year.

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati was to quick to sense an opportunity and extended support to the agitators. She condemned the firing in Haryana and said the community had lost faith in the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

"Neither the Congress nor the BJP have done justice with Jats. The two have only been giving false assurances to them on the quota issue," she said in a press note in Lucknow on Sunday.

By appealing to the Jats to agitate peacefully "to gain wider support for their movement" and saying their demand for reservation was "justified", Mayawati was clearly trying to fish in troubled waters.

With 136 Assembly seats in the region, the stakes are high for all political parties. Jats comprise over 17% of the population, while Muslims account for 26%. Muslims won 26 seats in the 2012 elections.

Ever since the 2013 communal riots, the BJP has kept the communal pot simmering in the hope of reaping political dividend in 2017, although a polarised society helps the party as much as it does the Samajwadi Party (SP).

In 2012, the SP won the bulk of seats from this region - 58, to be precise. So far, it has not issued any statement either for or against the agitation, barring one from Shivpal Yadav.

The Public Works Department Minister, also the party spokesman, advised the Jat leadership to file a special leave petition in the Supreme Court against its earlier judgment quashing quota for the community.

This is in sharp contrast to Mayawati's strong stand.

The apex court struck down the Centre's review petition last July.

Interestingly, UP continues to provide reservations to Jats despite the SC quashing quotas for Jats under the Other Backward Classes category. Rajasthan and Haryana have scrapped the provision.

A petition challenging the provision is pending in the Allahabad High Court. Jayant Chaudhary of RLD said "there is not much clarity" on the subject.

UP provided reservation to Jats in education and government in 2000.

Poll-scope

Nothing will help the SP in western UP this time, said Congress spokesman Satyadeo Tripathi. Asked who would be the likely gainer, Tripathi named BSP, Congress and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), in that order.

Jayant Chaudhary said it was too early to talk about the Jat agitation's possible electoral fallout. The grandson of former Prime Minister Charan Singh, however, did not hold his punches when it came to the BJP:

"There were enough warnings, but the BJP high command took no notice. The government should have come up with a mechanism to ensure that the situation did not boil over.

"The whole issue of Jats versus non-Jats is the creation of BJP President Amit Shah, who insisted on appointing a non-Jat as Haryana's chief minister in an act of one-upmanship."

'The whole issue of Jats versus non-Jats is the creation of BJP President Amit Shah'

As the Jat versus non-Jat issue threatens to envelope the state, political parties may have to change their poll strategy in the communally sensitive western UP.

Leaders of all parties agreed that if the current sentiment against the BJP continued, the saffron party's communal card may have little impact.

Edited by Joyjeet Das

First published: 22 February 2016, 9:04 IST
 
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