How Jat quota stir propelled BJP’s ascent in Haryana

Home Minister Amit Shah waves at his supporters during a public meeting in Rohtak district (PTI Photo)

The rise of the BJP in Haryana may have a lot to do, albeit by default, with the ugly Jat quota stir in February 2016, when the state was paralyzed for over a week with hoodlums running amok. 

Nearly 30 persons were killed in the agitation that witnessed unprecedented plunder and arson for days together in the passing winter month.

The political scenario that developed in Haryana post the quota stir spearheaded by the dominant Jat community worked to the advantage of the BJP. It augmented the polarization of non-Jat votes in BJP’s favour.

Non-Jats were at the receiving end during the agitation. Their properties were systematically targeted, looted and burnt down in many places that were at the epicentre of the stir. All this, and perhaps more, led to palpable widespread anger among the non-Jat community. 

The BJP under Manohar Lal Khattar had already positioned itself in a manner that led to widespread consolidation of non-Jat votes. The quota agitation only accelerated the process, with pro-BJP sentiment by non-Jats getting more profound.

The saffron party made major political gains thereafter. The party consolidated its position, winning all the five Mayor seats in corporation polls. It won the crucial Jind by-elections, followed by a clean sweep of 10 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP vote share swelled from 33% in 2014 to 58% in the recently held general elections.

Interestingly, the quota stir was a major breakdown of law and order in Haryana and one of the biggest failures of the Khattar government. For the first few days, the police and civil administration looked the other way, as violence escalated and goons indulged in arson and loot. Despite Khattar’s failure to curtail the crisis, the political aftermath was to the BJP’s advantage.  

The reservation demand by Jats remains unaddressed and cases registered against them for violence have also not been withdrawn, despite Jat leaders accentuating this demand on many forums with the government.

Ironically, disillusionment with the Congress and the INLD, who claim patronage over the traditional Jat vote bank, is leading to a swing in BJP’s favour manifesting among the Jat voters.

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