UP Election 2017: Have Amit Shah’s last-ditch efforts helped BJP win back its Jat vote-bank?

The large voter turnout in the first phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election indicates that Jats and other sections of the western region of the state have voted in a decisive manner. Some political analysts believe that the high voter turnout may actually work in the favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as it points to counter-polarisation among the Jat voters.

Even as campaigning for the first phase was coming to a close, BJP was still busy trying to win back its once loyal Jat vote-bank.

On Tuesday evening, BJP president Amit Shah met leaders of the community and issued a passionate and desperate appeal, asking them not to desert the party. The meeting took place over dinner at the residence of Union Minister of Steel Chaudhury Birender Singh, a Jat leader from the neighbouring state of Haryana.

BJP chief Amit Shah. PTI

BJP chief Amit Shah. PTI

According to an alleged audio recording of the meeting, leaked on social media, Shah heard the grievances of the community and said that he would meet a delegation of 'non-political' Jats to sort out the differences between the party and the community.

During the meeting, the community leaders posed four main questions to Shah. It was in response to these grievances that the BJP president offered to meet the 'non-political' delegation later that night. He had also offered to summon Union ministers to the meeting in order to settle the grievances.

"I urge you to select six-seven people from the community who are not affiliated to either BJP or any other party. You select anytime and I will be ready to sit and discuss these issues with you." Shah said.

In an attempt to pacify the community, Shah said, "BJP has always given the highest representation to Jats in the cabinet. We have added two more Jat ministers in the last reshuffle. There is no truth in what is being said – we have not done any injustice to the community."

He urged the community not to trust rumours. "I must make it clear, we have neither received nor rejected any proposal for any alliance," Shah added. Earlier, it was reported that BJP had rejected an alliance with the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in western Uttar Pradesh.

He said that BJP has tried to give the highest number of tickets to the community and was trying its best to help them win. He said, "If BJP and the community are not together, then it is a lose-lose situation for both."

Political analysts believe that Jats, who supported BJP in larger numbers during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, are angry over the BJP-led government’s failure to grant the community reservation. They are also reeling under the ill-effects of demonetisation, implemented by the Modi government. RLD, led by Ajit Singh, is being seen as a major throne in the side for BJP as the party hopes to claim power in the most populous state.

BJP had scored a stunning win in the Lok Sabha polls, riding mainly on the counter-polarisation wave following the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013.

Shah too referred to the riots in his speech: "BJP and Jats have a relationship which is more than 600-years-old. I am not talking about the riots. If you think deeply, you will understand what I am saying."

He also said that BJP has not gone back on its reservation promise: ‘We won’t ever work against the community. If you listen to the falsehoods and emotional misinformation, then it will help only those who have worked against the Jat reservation," Shah said.

He conceded to the Jat leaders that BJP could not win in western Uttar Pradesh without their support. But, he also warned that BJP's loss will affect the community. He said, "You know how 'they' have treated us in the past and how 'they' will treat you if BJP doesn’t win. I am a person who can be trusted. You can trust Narendra Modiji and BJP. I urge you with folded hands to trust us."

Several news reports said that the meeting ended well, with the community leaders offering support to the party and raising "jaikaras (ovation)", promising to convey BJP's message.

A day later, another BJP Jat leader and Union Minister of State and MP from Muzaffarnagar, Sanjiv Balyan, also engaged with the community in Meerut.

It clearly shows that BJP, rattled by news of an uprising in the Jat community, has put in all efforts to bring them back into its fold. Have these late attempts worked? Only time will tell.

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Updated Date: Feb 13, 2017 07:38:30 IST

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