Jayanta Chaudhary
RLD vice-president Jayant Chaudhary | Official Twitter account
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Former MP Begum Tabassum Hasan is the opposition’s joint candidate for the 28 May bypoll — she quit the SP to officially join the RLD on 6 May.

New Delhi: Rashtriya Lok Dal scion Jayant Chaudhary is sure that the candidate put up by his party, in conjunction with the Samajwadi Party, will defeat the BJP in the Kairana Lok Sabha bypoll in Uttar Pradesh on 28 May, and send out a strong message of opposition unity.

Chaudhary was present when the joint RLD-SP candidate, Begum Tabassum Hasan, filed her nomination papers Wednesday. Just three days before, Hasan, a former MP with the Bahujan Samaj Party, quit the SP to join the RLD, as per the parties’ arrangement.

“I will spend considerable time in Kairana to secure the victory of our candidate,” Chaudhary told ThePrint. “Later, SP president Akhilesh Yadav will also join me, and together we will defeat the BJP.”

RLD’s battle for survival

The bypoll is of prime importance for the RLD, which has been a regional power in western UP but currently has no MPs or MLAs. Its lone MLA in the state assembly joined the BJP a few days ago.

Despite having a considerable clout among a cross section of voters, especially farmers, the RLD’s vote share had dropped to a meager 1.8 per cent in the 2017 assembly polls.

And yet, Chaudhary insists that the party still has a loyal vote base. “Winning or losing an election is a different matter, but we have a loyal vote base, especially in the western belt, and that vote is transferable too,” he said.

“We will benefit from the votes of other parties in Kairana, and we will work hard in the Noorpur assembly by-election, so that our vote gets transferred to the SP candidate.”

Options discussed

A few days ago, SP leaders had told ThePrint that they were ready to support Chaudhary if he decided to contest from Kairana, otherwise they would put up their own candidate.

However, on 4 May, Chaudhary met Yadav met in Lucknow and other options were discussed, including the SP soliciting the RLD’s support for its own candidate. However, Chaudhary convinced Yadav that by giving ticket to the SP candidate on the RLD’s symbol would send out a louder message of opposition unity, and also help the transfer of votes.

“It was important to send out a message that the opposition is united, and more than anything else, it is the winnability of the candidate which would matter,” saiid Chaudhary. “When two parties are working together, it becomes clear that there aren’t going to be any ideological differences as such.”

The demographics of Kairana

The biggest single group of voters in Kairana belong to the Muslim community – about 5.5 lakh of the 16 lakh electorate. Dalits make up 2.65 lakh of the electorate, followed by Jats, with 2 lakh votes.

Initially, the SP did not want to field a Muslim candidate, since it would help the BJP turn this into a Hindu versus Muslim election.

But finally, the RLD-SP alliance settled on a Muslim candidate, Hasan.

For the last two elections in UP, Jat voters have sided with the BJP, ignoring the RLD, which is led by Chaudhary’s father Ajit Singh, whose father, Chaudhary Charan Singh was one of India’s tallest Jat leaders and even became Prime Minister.

“But now, things have changed. Farmers are unhappy with the BJP government,” said Chaudhary.

“In Kairana alone, the total arrears owed to farmers by sugar mills is around Rs 700 crore. We thought this would be the perfect time to show the people are no longer divided along religious lines, and they will vote for the betterment of the country.”

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