Rajasthan Polls: Will Jats hurt Congress numbers once again like 2013?

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The Jat community is Rajasthan believe that they never have received their due importance from the Congress, though they have supported the party traditionally. The Jat Community in the state is itching to end its brief dalliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but is also not happy with the Congress.

Hanuman Beniwal, a 46-year-old Jat leader from Rajasthan, is the face of this Jat political aspiration. An independent legislator from Nagaur District, Beniwal launched his Rashtriya Loktantrik Party on October 29.

Beniwal’s party is contesting 58 of the 200 seats in the assembly polls, scheduled for December 7. Beniwal party is contesting the polls with an alliance has an alliance with former BJP leader Ghanshyam Tiwari’s Bharat Vahini Party.

The Congress has taken to call Beniwal, sacked from the BJP in 2013, and Tiwari, the Trojan horses of the of the Bhartiya Janta Party. Beniwal is a popular leader in Nagaur and is a former President of the University of Rajasthan, but has little influence in rest of the Shekhawati region comprising Sikar, Jhunjhunu and Churu districts.

The Jats had totally boycotted the Congress in 2013 assembly and 2014 Lok Sabha polls, but are now returning to its fold. Congress think tanks, however, are more worried that any success Hanuman Beniwal, a former student leader, gets in the forthcoming elections would lead to a formation of ‘third force’ in Bipolar Rajasthan politics.

In his speeches, Beniwal appeals to fellow Jats, tribal Meena community, Muslims and Meghwals, a Scheduled Caste, to join hands for the upcoming polls and offer an alternative to the Congress and the BJP. “The idea has potential and can become powerful in the hands of a more adept politician, someone like Chaudhary Charan Singh. But Beniwal is a lightweight,” said a Nagaur-based political worker.

Most of the Jat Youths are unhappy that Congress never made a Jat Chief Minister despite being the party has had tall Jat leaders in Parasram Madherna, Ramniwas Mirdha, and Sisram Ola.

Jats community in the state comprise nearly 10 percent of the state’s 47.6 million electorates and are influential in the Shekhawati and Marwar region. They have to compete for political influence with Rajputs, who are 5-6 percent, and Gujjars, also 5-6 percent.

While Rajputs have supported the BJP, the Gujjars inclined towards the Congress after the emergence of Rajesh Pilot, and now see in his 41-year-old son Sachin the future chief minister.

In 1998, Parasram Maderna, a prominent Jat leader of 90s was set to become the CM before Ashok Gehlot pipped him to the post. As CM in 2011, Gehlot replaced Maderna’s son Mahipal from his ministry after he was named in the Bhanwari Devi case. In this election, the Congress has fielded Mahipal’s young daughter Divya Maderna from the Osian constituency in Jodhpur.

Congress think tanks are desperate for the emergence of a strong Jat leader within its ranks, but Madherna clans have mostly disappointed. This is where Hanuman Beniwal, with his fiery speeches and nearly half dozen recent farmer rallies, has become a source of concern of the Congress Party.

Support of Jats is also crucial for the Congress since the community also has a symbiotic political relationship with the Muslims. Congress has fielded Muslim candidates from Churu and Nagaur constituencies, while Jats in adjacent ones. “The support of Muslims will help the community win back the control of gram panchayats and cooperative banks from the Rajputs,” Harsh Chaudhary, a Congress leader in Churu, said.

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