Bharatiya Janata Party’s parliamentary board on Saturday nominated West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar as its vice presidential candidate.
By making Dhankhar, a Jat, and a learned lawmaker, its candidate for the VP, the BJP has attempted to trigger the deep fissures within the opposition parties that claimed themselves to be representing the Jat community in various states, predominantly in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan, the state Dhankar belongs to.
Just as the BJP has secured the votes of even the parties that are in opposition and in coalition with Congress in other states for its presidential candidate Draupadi Murmu, by nominating Dhankhar, BJP has attempted to gain the Jat support that is assumed to be upset with the party post the agricultural reform laws and farmers’ protest, sources said.
In addition to this, this would be a perfect strategy for the BJP to expose the regional political parties that claim to be the ‘thekedars’(leaders) of the Jat community during elections. “If they chose not to endorse its VP candidate and this despite BJP having numbers to make its candidate win the post, they will stand exposed within their vote bank,” stated a senior party leader.
For the 16th Vice Presidential Election, 233 elected members of Rajya Sabha, 12 nominated members of Rajya Sabha, and 543 elected members of Lok Sabha will vote.
While speaking to News18, Ram Singh, a four-time MP and one-time MLA from Rajasthan — the ‘Samadhi’ of Jagdeep Dhankhar — said Jats is a very influential community in the state and have influence over 15 districts and 64 constituencies.
“Congress mein to sendh lag gayi (We have breached the Congress). However, Jats were with BJP for quite some time now,” said Singh who is also the father of Rahul Kaswan, MP Churu, Rajasthan.
He also said that Sambhag (region) of Jodhpur, Bikaner, Bharatpur, Sikar had Jats in significant numbers. Rajasthan will be going to polls in 2023 on 200 seats.
With the VP candidate belonging to Jat community considered demographically largest (around 15 to 18 per cent) in the state, the party hopes to consolidate that votebank as well.
Senior leaders believe that Dhankhar’s nomination is likely to create more fissures within the already divided Congress in the state, especially in Jat leaders ahead of the state assembly elections. Jat leaders, especially from Congress, may show some kind of solidarity with the BJP’s VP candidate in the coming days to ensure their community does not feel emphatic towards the BJP, said a source.
Senior leaders in the state believe that Jats had voted in favour of the Congress and hoped that a Jat CM would be chosen. However, Congress chose Ashok Gehlot. “Whereas the BJP gave Vasundhara Raje who is considered married in to a Jat family and with the nomination of VP a message has been sent to the community that BJP is not averse to giving important designations to them,” added a senior party leader.
Pressure on rival Jat parties?
Senior BJP leaders said that eyes will be on parties that claim to be ‘Jat parties’ during elections, including Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtriya Lok Dal. Chaudhary is a Rajya Sabha MP. There are Lok Sabha polls slated in 2024 and BJP is eyeing to use the influence of Jat leaders especially in Western UP.
Can a Jat VP choice impress Haryana’s Jats?
While BJP’s alliance with Dushyant Chautala’s JJP is still intact, the party is also making attempts to solidify its base in the Jat community. As Jats are significant in numbers and have been upset with the party for making a non-Jat Chief minister, the party has, on directions of Prime minister Narendra Modi, begun to work on a Jat vote bank independent of JJP.
A senior party leader believes that while Dhankhar is a Jat from Rajasthan, it certainly will have some impact in the community in Haryana, if not much.
Message to Jats post Farmers agitation
BJP national president J P Nadda described Dhankhar as ‘Kisan- Putra’ while making the announcement. The message was loud and clear for those who were claiming that the party is anti-Jat and farmers post passing of agriculture laws in the parliament.
With many of the farmers belonging to the community, the party was tagged as anti-jat as well by the opposition, Jat leader Rakesh Tikait and Meghalaya governor Satya Pal Malik who is retiring this year. The party seems to have sent a message to all of them by having chosen Dhankhar at such a crucial post.