Asserting that the BJP’s alleged “apathy” towards protesting farmers will hurt it in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary on Sunday said artificial issues such as “love jihad” and “cow terror” will not work as issues of development will win in the elections.
As the focus shifts from the West Bengal polls earlier this year to the high-stakes election battle in Uttar Pradesh in 2022, newly-appointed Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Chaudhary asserted that his party will not allow a communally polarised campaign to ruin the Hindi heartland state in the run up to the assembly polls.
In an interview with PTI, Chaudhary, who took over as RLD chief after his father Chaudhary Ajit Singh’s demise last month, said his party and the Samajwadi Party have a good rapport and a strong working relationship.
He said details need to be worked out for a formal alliance for the polls.
Asked if a ‘Mahagathbandhan’ or a grand alliance is needed in UP to take on the BJP and whether the BSP and the Congress would be part of such an alliance, Chaudhary said, for him, issues come first and an understanding of those needs to be built between all alliance partners.
“Who can be accommodated depends on who is honestly open to working together on the common framework,” the 42-year-old leader said.
On whether the Congress would play a significant role in the assembly polls despite its poor showing in the panchayat elections, Chaudhary said he would not like to comment on the Congress’ plans and chances.
Asked about the speculation over UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s political future as CM and reports about Cabinet reshuffle in the state, Chaudhary said the BJP is just trying to divert attention and create an illusion of dialogue to manage the disgruntled elements in the party.
“Social engineering doesn’t come about by tinkering with one or two leaders at the top. The fact is that BJP’s Uttar Pradesh government has been caught in a caste-based matrix and has not delivered jobs, economic growth, and efficient governance to people,” he alleged.
The state government’s Covid response has been atrocious and no one can forget the scenes of dead bodies in the Ganga, he added.
“Now, after four-and-a-half years to create rumours of change in leadership is a poor attempt to shift focus from failures,” Chaudhary said.
Talking about the farm laws protests and whether they would be a key issue in the polls, he said farmers will and should be the biggest poll issue in our country, and asserted that as a class they have been denied their rights for far too long.
“The Centre’s new laws are prescribing a takeover of the entire market and value chain by the private sector and the withdrawal of the government from procurement and subsequent monopolisation will hurt producer and consumer interests,” the RLD chief said.
The “apathy and insensitive” attitude towards the protesting farmers will continue to haunt and hurt the BJP in polls, he claimed.
Chaudhary has participated in a number of ‘kisaan panchayats‘ in western Uttar Pradesh, where his party has had a significant presence over the years, and campaigned aggressively against the Centre’s farm laws.
Farmers from various parts of the country are protesting at Delhi’s borders against the three farm laws brought by the Centre last year, alleging that the legislations will hamper farming.
Asked about the electoral chances of the Opposition against the BJP in UP, Chaudhary said “when the nation is grieving and hurting, the Hindi heartland also will respond appropriately”.
“Love jihad, cow terror, Kairana exodus and other useless artificial issues will be rejected; healthcare, education and balanced development will win (in the polls),” he asserted.
The Opposition in UP has been alleging that cow vigilante violence is on the rise in the state, a charge denied by the BJP.
The ‘Kairana exodus’ was a reference to a BJP MP’s claim in 2016 that close to 350 Hindus had left Kairana over alleged threats and extortion by criminal elements belonging to a particular community.
Asked how he plans to turnaround the fortunes of the party which drew a blank in the last assembly polls, Jayant Chaudhary said, “I am humbled by the opportunity and the faith reposed in me by the Party at this critical juncture.”
“Chaudhary Saheb’s untimely passing has been a jolt for all of us. Just as any family copes with stress responds by coming together, the office bearers and workers of Rashtriya Lok Dal will need to work cohesively and look to the future,” Chaudhary said.
For reviving the party, Chaudhary said, as a first step he wants to engage with people who have worked at the grassroots and have political experience.
He said the party is also in conversation with a lot of leaders from other parties who want to join the RLD and work with us, Chaudhary said.
Asked if a fragmented opposition will be able to pose a challenge to the BJP in UP, the RLD chief said poll arithmetic has its own rhythms and rules and it’s not as easy to combine different parties and fight elections and assume a “2+2=4 result”.
“It is not as if the multiplicity of players is helping the incumbent. Some of the parties could also be taking away votes which might otherwise shift to the BJP,” he argued.
Asserting that it is most important to pick the right issues, Chaudhary said social developmental deficits need to be addressed aggressively if we want the state to progress.