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Explained: Why Has BJP Not Formalised Alliance With RLD In Uttar Pradesh, How Farmers' Protest Could Be Delay's Reason?

The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) quit the Opposition's INDIA bloc to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) earlier this month.

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PTI
RLD chief Jayant Singh | Photo: PTI
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Even 10 days after Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) quit the INDIA bloc to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the saffron party has not formally announced the joining.

Earlier this month, after the Narendra Modi government announced Bharat Ratna for Chaudhary Charan Singh, his grandson and RLD chief, Jayant Singh, signalled he has switched his allegiance to the NDA. When asked by media if he is joining hands with the BJP, Jayant replied: "Is there any doubt left now? How can I say no to your question today?"

Then, later on February 12, Jayant formally said that the RLD has switched coalitions. He said the decision was not taken after holding consultations with the party and the MLAs. But there has not been any comment on the switch from the BJP so far.

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It is understood that the ongoing farmers' protests could be the reason why the BJP has not yet formally announced the alliance. The RLD is a farmer-centric party with its base in Western Uttar Pradesh. The Jat community, which is intrinsic to the region's farming community, forms the traditional voting bloc of the party.

Here we explain how farmers' protest could be the reason behind the delay of formalisation of the BJP-RLD bonhomie and what RLD brings to the table.

What RLD Brings To Table For BJP?

The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) is a party with its base in Western Uttar Pradesh. It was formed in 1996 by Ajit Singh, the father of current party chief Jayant Singh.

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The RLD is built atop the legacy of Chaudhary Charan Singh, the former Prime Minister of India and Chief Minister of UP. He is also among the foremost farmer leaders of the country and the tallest Jat leader who remains an icon for the community that holds considerable sociopolitical sway in West UP, Haryana, and Rajasthan — critical electoral regions for the BJP.

The RLD is closely linked to the farmers' movements and the Jat polity. While the party has traditionally held sway over the Jats of the region, the hold has considerably withered since 2014 under the 'Modi wave'. Both Ajit and Jayant lost Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019. As of today, RLD does not have a Lok Sabha MP and Jayant is the only Rajya Sabha MP of the party.

Despite such a state of affairs, the RLD is a key player in West UP. While the party lost the three Lok Sabha seats it contested in 2019 as a junior partner of the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) combine, it gave a tough fight to the BJP. The similar situation was seen in the 2022 UP assembly elections.

"In Muzaffarnagar and Baghpat, the RLD gave the BJP a tough fight by securing 49.2 per cent and 48.5 per cent of the vote shares, respectively...In the 2022 Assembly elections, the party could only win eight seats out of 33 it contested in alliance with the SP, winning just 2.9 per cent of the overall vote share. It had a sizeable presence in the seats it contested though, winning 33.9 per cent of the vote share. The RLD finished runner-up in 19 seats, losing by less than 10,000 votes in six of them," reported The Indian Express.

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With a tie-up with the RLD, the BJP looks forward to bring a sizeable chunk of this RLD bloc to the NDA's kitty.

Moreover, as RLD draws its core support from the farming class of the region, the BJP also looks forward to consolidating its hold on the farmers and placating the group that has mounted the biggest challenge to the government since 2014. The farmers of West UP and Punjab waged a successful yearlong agitation against the Modi government that forced PM Modi to repeal the three farm laws in 2021. Now, a tie-up with the RLD is being seen as part of the twin outreach to the Jat community and the farming class.

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Why Has BJP Not Announced Alliance With BJP?

While RLD chief Jayant Singh has said he has switched to the BJP-led NDA, he has not said much about other aspects of the alliance.

Last week, while visiting the birthplace of his grandfather Charan Singh in UP's Hapur, Jayant told the media: "When a formal announcement is made, I will openly reply to questions like what were the reasons, our idea for the future, and what we want to do for our people and our area."

The reports have said the RLD is pressing for four Lok Sabha seats in UP. The Indian Express reported that the seats are Baghpat, Bijnor, Kairana, and Mathura.

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As for the delay in the formal announcement of the alliance, it appears to be a cautious move on part of both the parties in light of the ongoing farmers' protest. As the RLD is a farmers-centric party and former party chief Ajit Singh —father of current RLD chief Jayant— had supported the 2021-21 farmers' protests and called for farmer unity to 'uproot' the BJP government. If an alliance is formalised now when the farmers are protesting in Punjab and are marching to Delhi in thousands, it could lead to an embarrassment for RLD.

An RLD leader told The Express, "Once farmers reach a settlement with the government, that will be a better atmosphere for the announcement of the BJP-RLD alliance. Right now, the BJP and RLD are both facing questions on the issue."

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In a statement that appeared to bolster this argument, RLD spokesperson Mohd Islam told the paper that the party is engaging with the BJP-led government and NDA partners over the farmers' issues.

"The RLD is a farmers’ party, and we make no compromise on the issues of farmers. The RLD is speaking to the government and the NDA partners. Our priority is that the issues be resolved through dialogue between the government and farmers. And there should be no politics. Jayant is in touch with the government to find a solution," said Islam.

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