Jat Community and politics
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The Jat vote
MUCH ADO ABOUT JAT VOTE?
Community Must Prove It Is Critical To Parties Who Invested In Them
Subodh Ghildiyal | TNN
2008: Mahendra Singh Tikait vs. Mayawati
New Delhi: Date: April 1-2. Year 2008: That was when a battle of wits that pitted Jat stalwart Mahendra Singh Tikait against dalit icon Mayawati broke out.
Tikait had hurled a caste slur against the then CM and found policemen snapping at his heels. He smirked and dug himself in at Muzaffarnagar’s Sisauli village with clansmen and loyalists, brazenly challenging the state. An unrelenting Mayawati dispatched a 6,000-strong force to lay siege to the village. For two days UP worried bullets would rain and blood would flow.
The confrontation ended in a whimper. A chastened Tikait apologized and made up with Mayawati calling her his daughter, “beti”. That surrender shrank the Tikait’s stature. In social discourse, a dalit – weakest placed in feudal West UP – had called the bluff of the dominant Jats. This was a watershed moment. Observers called it “righting of the demographics” – 3.6% of UP’s population that had appeared so disproportionately large because of its social clout, had been found out.
2009: vs. Ashok Gehlot’s Cogress government in Rajasthan
Not that the community was any less helpless in Rajasthan and Haryana where it has more impressive numbers. In 2009, Jats declared war on Ashok Gehlot’s Cogress government in Rajasthan. Yet Cogress won the state and parliamentary polls without much sweat. So did Cogress in successive Haryana polls against Jat leader of standing OP Chautala heading INLD.
For a good decade, Jats raised the pitch to regain relevance in their strongholds but were shown up, their political chip in a tailspin.
2013 and after
Come 2014 and the wheels seem to be turning again. Once again, there’s a Jat buzz – they’re dominating headlines, political parties are lining up to placate them like UPA granting them national OBC status. They’re being talked about as a swing bloc that can shape fortunes in Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana and West UP.
Between their marginalization and return to centre stage lies, as ironic as it is tragic, the Muzaffarnagar riots [of 2013]. “The riots caught the imagination of the political class (BJP, RLD and Cogress),” Jawaharlal Nehru University sociologist Vivek Kumar explains. He seems to be alluding to the reason that made Jats enjoy outsized importance postindependence – the ability to “influence” voting of communities lower in the social or economic order.
The riots showed Jats turning against the historical religious mix of west UP villages. If Jats and Muslims are antagonistic, the “secular” RLD that polls both blocs together crumbles. It provides an opening to BJP that thrives on religious consolidation.
No wonder, BJP toasted its leaders accused of engineering the clashes. The “secular” RLD sought an antidote in “job quotas” to quell Jat anger. The rush for Jat attention brought the community back from oblivion and the community is relishing this newfound salience. It cleverly coupled its grievances against the Centre to the riot debate and RLD chief Ajit Singh pushed “quota” as the corrective. “It’s the ‘riots cause’ and the ‘reservation effect’,” a leader explained.
Even as the community savours the importance, one cannot help the doubts about their “swing” factor. Experts argue BSP has reworked West UP caste equations irreversibly. Marrying of dalit votes with Muslims, backward groups like Gujjars and the ‘most backwards’ weaning them away from the traditional Jat grouping has dented the latter’s clout.
Social engineering and the Jats’ ability to win elections
Sample this: In 2007, 16 Jats were elected to UP assembly. Five years later, after Mayawati worked on social engineering minus Jats, community MLAs were down to 4.
With the Muzaffarnagar riots increasingly seen as limited to Jats, many feel they may not bring the wider Hindu consolidation BJP is banking on. Just as few think the OBC status would soften the community’s anti-Cogress mood in Delhi and Rajasthan or stop Haryana Jats from rooting for Chautala or BJP.
Therein is the test of Jats this election – of proving their criticality to each group that has invested in them. They know another failure to prove political heft at the hustings may push them down the slope of irrelevance.
The Times of India, Feb 21 2016
Waning political clout driving affluent Jats' quota stir
The incendiary Jat protest in Haryana for OBC quota has put into sharp relief what a perception of loss of political power coupled with perceived or legitimate grievances can spark off in contemporary identity politics. The push from the powerful and resourceful community has brought BJP's Khattar government to its knees. It is significant that the epicentre of protests is Rohtak, not just because it is the hub of Jat power but also home to former CM Bhupinder Hooda, Congress' Jat hegemon who was replaced by a Punjabi Khattar.
Hooda's decision, after appealing for peace, to go on fast also indicates that Congress might see an opening to regain relevance with the Jat agitation severely disrupting normal life in Haryana.
The demand for OBC quotas is old hat, given willingly in the state by an obliging Ho oda regime before being stalled by the high court. The judicial veto exacerbated the sense of hurt because by then the Supreme Court had also nixed the inclusion of the community in the central list of OBCs. It all seems to have made for a deadly mix when coupled with the feeling that they have lost political power in the state after 2014.
Jats are the landed ruling class of Haryana, with an enormous hold over finances and resources, and are advanced educationally and professionally . They also ha ve a high share of the state population, thereby ensuring their stamp is unmissable. They are well represented in government jobs.
But by the community's logic, they are an agrarian group on a par with Yadavs and Gujjars and cannot be treated differently. Also, they are classified as OBCs in neighbouring Delhi, Rajasthan as well as UP. This argument, however, ignores the lesser sta tus enjoyed by Jats in UP and Rajasthan as compared to their dominance in Haryana.
It is a measure of the community's coercive power that the Khattar government has announced it would call a special assembly session to legislate in favour of their demand.The method of dispensing quota could be creation of a new group of “special OBCs“ or including them in the OBC list.
But both the quota routes are loaded with uncertainty , since adding a new group may exceed the 50% reservation ceiling and invite judicial injunction, while putting Jats in the OBC list would anger existing backwards who would view it as an encroachment.
To observers, the upping of the ante by Jats is not an isolated case but part of a nationwide pattern whereby do minant upper castes are demanding classification as OBCs. If it is the Patidars, byname for business and enterprise, in Gujarat, it is the resourceful Kapus in Andhra Pradesh, the royal Marathas in Maharashtra; even Ahoms in Assam are seeking ST status.
Sociologists say job quota apart, the larger gameplan of these castes is to capture political power which they have lost over the years as forward castes.
For some time now, the panchayats and local bodies in states have had OBC quotas. Also, while the assembly and Parliament don't have OBC quotas, these communities as part of the Mandal bloc and with established financial and social clout, would be stronger claimants for tickets than other OBCs.
March 2016: Jat quota Bill passed
The Times of India, Mar 30, 2016
Jat quota Bill passed in House, headed for court
Haryana assembly unanimously passed the controversial Jat reservation bill, providing quota to community under a newly-carved-out backward class (C) category. Five other communities - Jat Sikh, Muslim Jat, Bishnoi, Ror and Tyagi - have also been included in the new category and they would be entitled for 10% reservation in government services and admission in educational institutions. The bill - Haryana Backward Classes (reservation in services and admission in educational institutions) Bill 2016 - was passed unanimously within a few minutes after it was presented in the House. Given the controversy over the quota issue in Haryana, the new bill is likely to be challenged in the high court after the governor signs it. The Haryana government, however, has clarified that the benefit of the newly-carved-out BC (C) category would be available only for non-creamy layer candidates. For this, the government would soon come out with income slab and those above this level would not be entitled for quota. Khattar said the state government would review the income criterion after every three years. BJP government, led by Manohar Lal Khattar, also passed a resolutions urging the Centre to place the new bill in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution to shield it from legal scrutiny. This is for the first time that the Haryana assembly passed a bill providing reservation to the Jat community, which has been demanding it for the past 25 years and held several agitations for this. The previous Bhupinder Singh Hooda government had also provided 10% reservation to Jats at the fag-end of its tenure but it had not completed the requisite legal formalities before notifying the decision. The notification issued by Hooda in 2013 was stayed by Punjab and Haryana high court as it was notified without enacting any law in the Assembly. The new bill is based on the reports of Justice Gurnam Singh commission and Justice K C Gupta commission that had recommended reservation for the community in 1991 and 2012, respectively. As many as 30 people had lost their lives, 324 were injured and property worth crores was destroyed in the state last month during the community's agitation for quota. Jat leaders had also given an ultimatum to the state government till March 31 to pass the bill or face another agitation. Legal experts, however, believed that the decision would come under judicial scanner as Haryana has already exceeded the 50% ceiling for reservation fixed by the Supreme Court.
Haryana second state to have more than 50% reservation
After Tamil Nadu, Haryana has become the second state in the country to have more than 50% reservation in government jobs and admission in educational institutions. Earlier, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan had reservation beyond 50% but all of them were stayed by courts. Tamil Nadu is still having quota beyond 50% limit as it has the immunity under 9th Schedule of the Constitution. Khattar government has requested the Centre to include the new Act under the 9th Schedule to avoid legal scrutiny. Legal experts on the new law "The provisions of Haryana's bill are subject to challenge, as the reservation has crossed the limit of 50%, as a nine-judge bench of the apex court has already made it clear that reservation cannot be provided beyond 50%," said N S Bhindar, former additional director (prosecution), Haryana. "Legislature is within its right to pass such bills considering the special circumstances to uplift socially and economically backward classes in the state. I believe that if legislature decides considering special circumstances in the state, it can make provisions for reservation beyond 50%. Even if it's challenged before the court, the government has strong and special grounds to defend it," said K S Dhaliwal, senior high court advocate. "Present bill is better than earlier government's notification on two points. First, it's a legislative enactment and secondly a formation of a separate backward commission. However, present bill is also not free from vulnerability as it can be challenged in SC being in violation of Indira Sawhney case and unless protection under 9th schedule of Constitution is not given, it cannot escape judicial review," said Ravinder Singh Dhull, advocate of Punjab and Haryana high court.
"We are satisfied with Haryana government's decision, as it would help Jat community get reservation under OBC quota at Centre. We also expect Khattar government to pursue with Centre to include new bill under 9th Schedule so that the reservation can be protected from being challenged," said Hawa Singh Sangwan, senior leader of Jat agitation movement.
"We are excited after the new bill and thankful to the state government for fulfilling our long-pending demand to provide quota for Jat community in the state," Sube Singh Samain, spokesperson of Sarv Khap Panchayat, Haryana. "The government has deprived Jats and five other communities by providing only 6% reservation in recruitment of class-I and Class-II, while we had requested to provide them 12% reservation in this category. We have called our national executive meeting in Delhi on April 3 to discuss the bill, and any response to the new bill would be announced only after that meeting," said Yash Pal Malik, president of Akhil Bharatiya Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti.
Prominent Jat politicians
THE TOP GUNS
A towering leader who rose to become PM, credited with forging backward class unity that found an echo across states
Mahendra Singh Tikait
Powerful farmer leader of west UP. Massive Delhi Boat Club stir in Oct 1988 took him to national stage
Tau to masses, he held Janata Dal together while making VP Singh PM in 1989. Known for his earthiness, he became Dy PM
Went on to become a top Cogress leader from Rajasthan
Nathu Ram Mirdha
Influential among his people, he went on to become a top Rajasthan Cogress leader