Jats in Rajasthan are standing at crossroads ahead of assembly election scheduled later this year. The most politically mature caste group in Rajasthan is finding itself on its wits because community now lacks the charismatic leaderships it had been fortunate to have since independence. The stature and respect commanded by likes of Nathu Ram Mirdha, Parasram Maderna, Ramniwas Mirdha has become a thing of past. Though, Jat youths seem to be mesmerized by juggernauting tactics of Hanuman Beniwal in Rajasthan while Vasundhara Raje’s trumpet as ‘Jat Queen’ continues.
Term him a weathercock of Rajasthan politics, Jat scion Vishvendra Singh Bharatpur has been worried about the situation and asking questions to his ‘current’ party – Congress. “If Congress wants to come in power then it should tell the people that who would lead it. Jats are confused in Rajasthan and looking for answers.” Vishvendra Singh said. Pied crusted cuckoo has not got any answers yet.
Onus is on Congress as it became a political force in Rajasthan only after amalgamation with Marwar Kisan Sabha. After six decades of dominance, now Congress does not have any reputed Jat face which can mobilize community like Mirdhas and Madernas. Though tallest figure in Congress, Ashok Gehlot, hails from Marwar but belongs to another agricultural community – Mali.
Congress under Rahul Gandhi is keeping cards close to chest as far as Rajasthan is concerned because it is only state where party is eyeing first win for Rahul Gandhi as president. Youthfulness and generational change has been buzzword in Congress since Rahul Gandhi has taken over but big question is whether young Gandhi scion will be willing to risk his best chance or rather wither it away by putting his bets on a rootless arrogant novice.
Jats are the key to political success in Rajasthan. Vasundhara Raje understands it and that is why she insisted in her divorce deal that she would retain the title of ‘Maharani of Dholpur’ – one of two Jat principalities in Rajputana. No one recognised any such title at the time the papers were singed, although none has challenged the deal as void or voidable let alone void-ab-initio. Raje has been trying to project herself as ‘savior of Jats’ and has been promoting substandard leadership in order to capture not only the Jat votes but also Jat imagination. Only, Hanuman Beniwal is proving to a flesh in her thorn.
Nagaur, the epicenter of Jat politics has been in doldrums since advent of Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan politics in 2003. Jyoti Mirdha has emerged as able scion of Nathuram Mirdha dynasty while consecutive electoral losses of Harendra Mirdha have reduced the base for Ramniwas Mirdha’s lineage in Nagaur. Vasudhara Raje have been pushing Ajay Singh Kilak son of Ram Raghunath Chaudhary against Richpal Mirdha. Though Jyoti Mirdha has proven herself as a deft player with her development agenda rooted locally but she is also been accused of shortsighted underhand dealing in 2009 with Gopal Singh Edwa, the lone Rajput leader in Congress in Nagaur. After the loss in 2014 she has been working albeit invisibly on the ground but off-hand politics is not the ‘style’ Naguar is connoisseur of.
Haunman Beniwal has emerged as a major threat to the established order of Jat leadership not only in Nagaur but across Rajasthan. Street smart tactics are hallmark of his style but has limited capacity in terms of political bargaining. Jat youth likes Hanuman Beniwal as much as the politically mature abhor him. Those who are close to him highlights his incapacity to become an umbrella leader of Jat community but he is gaining support base slowly but surely across many districts.
Harendra Mirdha, on the other hand, is proving to be relentless crusader for his place under the sun despite successive electoral setbacks. But his mind lies in Congress while his heart gets stolen by Vasundhara Raje occasionally especially when elections closes by. The smartest of younger lot – Raghuvendra Mirdha is still to come out of self imposed wrapping of 3S -Sipping, Shayari and Sham-e-Gum. With an inspiring example of CR Chaudhary before them, many retired officers are taking cue out of his book to fight elections in Nagaur district but none has that mettle needed to lead the Jat community from front.
CR Chaudhary also epitomizes culture of coterie political which was unthinkable in times of Madernas and Mirdhas but that’s what the ‘queen’ desires.
Marwar where majority of Jat community reside is no longer the seat of Jat politics. Death of patriarch Parasram Maderna and Bhanwari Devi murder case has hit the regional Jat politics in Marwar. Divya Maderna is still to come out of cocoon. Sources close to the family believes that she has an uncanny knack of taking wrong turns, if not U-turns, when it matters the most; a dangerous habit for sure in politics. Her mother Lila Maderna is a local player while Badriram Jakhar – a truck operator turned politicians is giving them run for their money while Mahipal Maderna fights for his future in SC-ST court.
Barmer is another district where Jat politics boils more than mercury in the summer months. Unfortunately, Barmer has become bereft of sane political voices in last decade. After demise of eight times MLA Gangaram Chaudhary, his granddaughter Priyanka has been proving to be a light weight in Barmer politics while mallow voices such as Hemaram Chaudhary may continue their unimpressive long haul. Sauvé Harish Chaudhary, though have risen in hierarchy of Congress, find him at loss when it comes to sieving through fast paced ground level politics in Barmer. Restless Sonaram and Kailash Chaudhary have their own following but they are prone to create their own pitfalls lest Vasundhara Raje continues to offer them mutually beneficial ‘deals worth of gold’.
In Bikaner, Virendra Beniwal was one face which showed some promise but political success matters more in Jat politics than anything else. Ramnarayan Dudi has become leader of opposition in 21 member congress legislative party but remained a political minnow despite his effort to play the big boy’s game in Jaipur while Delhi cheered for him for the sake of old relations. Abhishek Matoriya is another example of young Jat leader promoted by Vasundhara Raje. Young Matoriya is close relative of Chautalas of Haryana and is exactly the material his mentor requires under her wings.
Shekhawati is another bastion where Jats have always ruled the roost. Vacuum left by Sis Ram Ola is yet to be filled in Shekhawati as his foot was too big to be filled by his family and supporters together. Brijendra Ola, his son, has never been a politicians moreover he has chosen to side with Sachin Pilot and will contest from a seat where Mali votes hold the key to success. Rita Kumari will remain a force to recon with in Mandawa while Pratibha Singh may not shine in next battle. Shrawan Kumar will remain what he is – an MLA from Surajgarh and his ambition to become next Sis Ram Ola of Jhunjhunu will remain a pipe dream. In Churu, BJP’s Father-Son-Mother trio wants to keep the power within the family while Congress continues to try the spent cartridges like Narendra Budania. In Sikar, Subhash Maharia has been playing too many games with various parties and no longer is voice of Jats. Mahadev Singh is also limited to Khandela and Govind Dotasara to Lachmangarh while Narayan Singh has been promoting daughter in law Rita Singh. All in all, Jat leaders in Shekhawati lose influence beyond their electoral constituency and there cannot be any Mirdha or Maderna.
In Bharatpur, Vishvendra Singh is holding forte at ‘panghor’ for Jat Politics singlehandedly. After Digambar Singh, he has no able competitor left in Deeg-Kumher or even in other parts of Bharatpur where he calls the shots today unopposed. Nadbai will continue to vote in the name of Raja Man Singh.
Ajmer was one area where politics were not pre-dominantly Jat but perception was created through deft positioning of men and resources since 2003. Sanwarlal Jat has left a void that will not be filled anytime soon in Jat politics of Ajmer while Ram Chandra Chaudhary will continue to choose wrong side just before the elections. Chittorgarh and Pali are two districts where despite sizable chunk of Jat voters their politics has not been able to take root in absence of any credible face with both Congress and BJP. Congress has not projected anyone from Jat community who can lead from the front while BJP is promoting courtiers. This is why Jat politics in Rajasthan is on the cross roads.
And in the end, one Jat leader for whom everyone including Jat, Rajput, Gurjar, Yadav, Meena, Mali, SC, ST etc. wishes that he wins next election – Satish Punia. But prophecy is that Satish Punia may not defy his track record of losing elections with close margins anytime soon.