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Meeting with khaps, central intervention — how BJP plans to defuse Jat dissent over farm laws

BJP is facing increasing Jat opposition in Haryana and Western UP over farm laws. In Haryana, party leaders say, not having a Jat CM is hurting BJP 'for the first time'.

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New Delhi: With another Haryana BJP leader quitting over farm laws Sunday, the party is now readying a plan to tackle the growing dissent, particularly in the Jat-dominated districts of Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh.

BJP leaders told ThePrint the party has asked its Jat community leaders and village panchayat leaders to meet khap members and involve them to defuse the crisis. The party has also asked to keep these meetings low-profile.

The BJP has already formed committees at every mandal in Haryana to talk to the khap leaders.

“We have decided to involve our party’s Jat leaders and also those who have influence in khaps to meet their members and convince them because at many places, khaps have taken resolutions to boycott BJP leaders,” said a BJP MP from Haryana, who didn’t want to be named.

“BJP leaders have been told to meet khap panchayat leaders without informing them in advance and involve apolitical, social leaders too. After the (Rakesh) Tikait incident, more trouble is expected in Sonipat, Panipat, Rohtak. So, party leaders have been told to meet retired defence personnel, professors, spiritual gurus to take their help in reaching out to the Jat community,” added the MP.

On Sunday, Haryana BJP’s core group held a meeting in Gurugram during which the matter was discussed, said party sources. It was attended by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and state party president Om Prakash Dhankar. 

Several BJP members at the meeting raised the issue of growing dissent and opposition against the party in Jat strongholds, specially after farmer leader Rakesh Tikait’s impassioned speech at Ghazipur border. 

The members also decided to apprise the Centre of the prevailing sentiments among the Jats and urge it to make an effort to end the deadlock at the earliest amid growing pressure from the community.

Subsequently, Khattar met BJP national president J.P. Nadda, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and other central leaders in Delhi Monday.

In the last one week, two former BJP MLAs from Haryana quit the party. While Rampal Majra left after the 26 January violence, Balwan Singh Daulatpuria quit Sunday, claiming that a khap panchayat had asked him to come out in support of the farmers.

Both had joined the BJP from INLD before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

In the last 3-4 months, over 10 BJP leaders from Haryana alone have deserted the party over the farm laws. 

Also read: Why the farmers’ protest is led by Sikhs of Punjab

‘Have alienated a large section of the society’

BJP MP from Bhiwani Dharambir Singh told ThePrint the “situation is tense”.

“The khaps have given a call to boycott BJP leaders. Earlier, farmers had given a call to boycott our leaders. Our effort to defuse tension isn’t actually working. The Centre will have to intervene in defusing the growing dissent among the Jat community. We will meet in small groups in villages to make them understand the provision made in the Budget for the farmers. Let’s see how things work,” he said.

Sudha Yadav, former BJP MP from Haryana, told ThePrint that in Rewari there was a protest going on over farm laws by khap members for the last two months. But after intervention by some local civil society groups, the protest was shifted to the Rajasthan border.

“More such effort is going on, but the situation will normalise only when the Centre will find a way out to satisfy the farmers,” Yadav added.

A senior BJP leader and MP from Haryana present in the core group meeting Sunday told ThePrint: “We have alienated a large section of the society in these 3-4 months.”

“Forget about the Jats, this protest is above caste lines. The Congress is working from the front and back, and every party is trying to exploit the situation politically. Here, every caste is participating in the farmers’ protests. The only wisdom we have applied is that unlike Uttar Pradesh (which sent police to arrest Tikait), we (Haryana government) have not sent forces at the borders to further antagonise sentiments,” said the leader on condition of anonymity.

‘Non-Jat CM in Haryana hurting BJP’

The above-quoted BJP MP further said for the “first time in Haryana, the appointment of a non-Jat leader as the chief minister is hurting the BJP, more so because we don’t have any strong Jat leader and nor have we cultivated any”.

“The majority community versus the rest of the community is not working here because of the economy and every farmer is united on this issue. The chief minister has said many times ‘What can I do? It’s the Centre’s call’.”

The MP added: “We had organised a Tiranga Yatra in 14 districts of Haryana after the 26 January incident, but the response was not good and it had no effect on the unity of the farmers.”

Meanwhile, in Western UP, from Muzaffarnagar to Baghpat, kisan panchayats and khap panchayats have extended their support to the farmers’ protest after Tikait’s speech.

Here also, BJP district presidents, MLAs, MPs have been told to meet khap leaders in small groups to involve them in placating the community. But some MPs expressed reservation over such efforts.

“The muscular strategy may not work and we will end up uniting them even more. On one hand, we are fortifying the protest sites and sending wrong signals and on the other, we are saying we are ready for talks. Both cannot work at the same time,” said an MP from Western UP, who didn’t want to be named.

Also read: ‘We can lead a revolution’ — women take centre stage at farmer protests at Singhu border


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