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Years After Jat Agitation and Ram Rahim Row, BJP Banking on Non-Jat Mobilisation to Win in Haryana

Years After Jat Agitation and Ram Rahim Row, BJP Banking on Non-Jat Mobilisation to Win in Haryana

The BJP has been trying to tap into the anger among non-Jats since their properties were targeted during the Jat quota agitation.

Haryana is not a caste homogenous subject. It is diverse, and politically, castes here act according to their own political calling. This election is different from the past elections as the Jat versus non-Jat division is expected to be out in the open, considering the events that took place post-2014. The Lok Sabha elections will reflect the sentiments that surfaced during the Jat agitation and the Gurmeet Ram Rahim controversy.

Haryana was created after separation from Punjab in 1966. Haryanavi economy and culture have been governed by the Jats, who are mostly Hindus. In Punjab, the dominant agrarian community is Jatts, who are mostly Sikhs. As Haryana goes to the polls on Sunday, here’s a look at the way the state is likely to vote and how the BJP stands to gain.

Saffron Plank

In Haryana, Jats constitute nearly 30% of the total population and the remaining are non-Jats, comprising 35 communities. The latter is the section that the BJP is trying to woo. Even the BJP chief minister in the state, Manohar Lal Khattar, is a non-Jat.

Since its formation, politics in Haryana has been dominated by the Jats, who are traditionally voters of the INLD. The monopoly on the Jat voters was breached by the Congress in 2005. It was during the Bhupinder Hooda regime that the Haryana Backward Classes Commission was created, which later on recommended 10% special backward class (SBC) quota for Jats, Bishnois and Tyagis. Initially, this seemed favourable for the Congress, but eventually led to polarisation of other 35 caste communities in favour of the BJP.

Yadavs of South Haryana

The Yadav vote is the deciding factor in southern Haryana also known as ‘Ahirwati’, which comprises Bhiwani-Mahendragarh and Gurgaon seats. The BJP may have an advantage here as the nationalism narrative holds significance among Yadavs, many of whom have family members serving in the Indian Army. The demand for a separate 'Ahir regiment' is also very prominent in the Ahirwati region. In fact, their tradition folk song has lyrics like ‘main seem pe ladne jaaungi…’, which a distinct anti-Pakistan chord.

Fragmentation of Caste Identity

Northern Haryana, which is close to Punjab, was affected the worst during Jat agitation. The areas affected by the protests saw mob lynching, arson, vandalism, with properties of non-Jats being targeted. The lingering sentiment of dissatisfaction may help the BJP this time.

The Schedule Caste vote is quite important in Ambala and Sirsa seats. The Gurmeet Ram Rahim controversy may affect the BJP, but there is very limited possibility that the Dalit vote will favour a Jat-dominated party. The split in the INLD and the creation of Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), which allied with the AAP, may impact the Congress’s Jat vote share negatively.

(Author is assistant professor at Central University of Haryana with specialisation in social exclusion and caste dynamics in Haryana and Punjab)