New Delhi: If exit polls are to be believed, the BJP is all set to end its 14-year-long exile from the corridors of power in Uttar Pradesh. All seven exit poll results released on Thursday claim the BJP will emerge as the single-largest party in UP. Three of them even claim the party will cross the 200 mark.
The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the traditional "party of the Jats", faced a severe drubbing and failed to win even a single seat.
Over the last year, however, there was silent resentment brewing among Jats. The Jat agitation in neighboring Haryana threatened to chip away at the gains the BJP made in 2014. However, if exit polls are anything to go by, the Jats seem to have largely stuck with the BJP.
This runs contrary to the standard narrative that Jats were miffed with the BJP. While the quota agitation was the last straw for Jats, their resentment has deeper roots. For a community that produced not only Chief Ministers but also a Prime Minister, the political marginalization after the Charan Singh’s death has not gone down well.
Western UP is one of the highest sugar-producing regions in the country. Over the last three years, the sugar industry had faced a serious crisis of overproduction. The supply of sugar in the market had far outstripped the demand.
All this has made sugarcane farming, the Jat community’s main trade, an unviable profession. This has only added to the community’s frustrations. The Muzaffarnagar riots ruptured the relationship between Jats, traditionally land owners, and Muslims, who traditionally worked as farm hands on Jats’ land.
The exit polls, however, tell a different story. The Today’s Chanakya Poll has been most charitable to BJP, giving the saffron party a thumping majority of 285 seats out of 403. This is far more than the halfway mark of 202 seats needed to form government.
The Axis poll gives the BJP between 251 and 279 seats. Another poll that puts BJP at the 200 mark is the VMR poll. Even the most conservative of polls, the C-Voter Survey, puts the BJP on top as the single-largest party with 161 seats. The Network18-Gramener poll gives 193 seats to the BJP, just short of a majority.
All issues seem to have had only a marginal impact, if any, on BJP’s support among Jats. Before the polls, even BJP leaders admitted in private to being “nervous” about the resentment among Jats. The community is, after all, crucial to the BJP’s campaign in the state.
Now, they are singing a different tune. Muzaffarnagar MP and Union minister Sanjeev Balyan, the BJP’s Jat face in western UP, told News 18, “While it is too early to say anything at this stage since the verdict is not officially out,the exit polls seem to confirm our belief that BJP will form the government in UP. This will not be possible without support from Jats.
The community has been solidly for the BJP since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and we will retain most o f that support. Those who say that BJP backstabbed Jats are wrong. We have supported all demands of Jats, including reservations.”
Leaders of the Jat agitation, howeever, disagree. Yashpal Malik, president of the Akhil Bhartiya Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti (ABJSS) who is spearheading the Haryana Jat agitation, rejected the exit polls. “Exit polls are not always accurate. These polls claim BJP will win most of the seats in western UP but that is simply not possible. They will not win more than 20 seats in the first phase. BJP has underestimated the anger among the Jats and they will pay a heavy price.”
Malik added, “Everybody knows BJP is anti-minority. That is why Muslims and Dalits never vote for them. This time, even Jats will abandon them.”
In the 21 districts that make up western UP, Jats form around 17% of the population. Districts with a high concentration of Jats are Mathura (5 seats), Meerut (7 seats), Muzaffarnagar (6 seats), Baghpat (3 seats), Shamli (3 seats), Saharanpur (7 seats) and Bijnor (8 seats).