A posthumous Bharat Ratna for ex-Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh has all but redrawn political battle-lines in Uttar Pradesh weeks before a general election, with the Rashtriya Lok Dal seen as on the verge of dumping the Samajwadi Party (and INDIA) to ally with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The award – announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on X – comes amid reports of a deal between the BJP and RLD, which was founded by Charan Singh’s son and is now led by his grandson. In fact, sources this week told NDTV the RLD wanted the recognition as part of its terms to come on-board.
Party boss Jayant Chaudhary‘s latest comments seemed to emphasise just that – the deal is done.
“What previous governments could not do was today completed by PM Modi’s vision. I would like to once again express my gratitude to PM Modi’s government for encouraging people who aren’t part of the mainstream. It is a big day… and an emotional moment for me,” Mr Chaudhary said.
“I want to thank President (Droupadi Murmu), the (BJP) government, and PM Modi… three (Bharat Ratna) awards have been given. Sentiments of the people are connected with this decision.”
Earlier in the day – in fact 13 minutes after Mr Modi tweeted – Mr Chaudhary reposted the Prime Minister’s message and declared, “Dil jeet liya (Hearts have been won).”
— Jayant Singh (@jayantrld) February 9, 2024
But, asked if this meant he will now ally with the BJP, he said, “Koi kasar rehti hai? Aaj main kis muh se inkaar karoon aapke sawalon ko“, or, “Is there anything left? How can do I deny your questions today?’
And, in the best traditions of Indian politics, Mr Chaudhary refused to burn (for now) the bridge with Samajwadi Party boss Akhilesh Yadav, who continues, for now, to back his RLD counterpart.
“Talking about seats (with the BJP) or votes will make this day less important… when I am congratulating PM Modi… (this) proves he understands the sentiments and character of the nation.”
Sources said the BJP will give the RLD – which has substantial support among Jats and farmers in western UP – two Lok Sabha seats and one Rajya Sabha seat in return for its support. For the BJP (for any party, in fact, looking to form the government at the centre), UP is crucial since it has 80 seats.
The western region of UP has 29 of the state’s 80 seats.
Seven of those were reserved for the RLD as part of last month’s deal with the Samajwadi Party.
The RLD-BJP talks, officially a ‘rumour’ till confirmed, will probably have Akhilesh Yadav and the INDIA bloc on edge. For Mr Yadav the loss will have reduce his (already slim, based on previous elections) chances of defeating the BJP. And for INDIA, it will mean the loss of a second member to Mr Modi.
Mr Yadav, while welcoming the Bharat Ratna for Chaudhary Charan Singh, has refused to comment on the RLD’s possible breakaway, telling reporters this afternoon, “There have been no talks. Whatever it is, (it) is being published in newspapers… am getting information through you.”
#WATCH | Lucknow: On speculations of Jayant Chaudhary-led RLD joining the BJP-led alliance in UP, Samajwadi Party Chief Akhilesh Yadav says, “There have been no talks here. Whatever it is, is being published in newspapers, I am getting all the information through you.” pic.twitter.com/8Hfb3vkAa2
— ANI (@ANI) February 9, 2024
Yesterday he called Jayant Chaudhary a “very well-educated person… (one who) understands politics”.
The former UP Chief Minister also said he hoped he would not weaken the struggle against the BJP “for the welfare of farmers and prosperity of the state”. His party was more explicit; General Secretary Shivpal Yadav said “Jayant will not go anywhere”, and accused the BJP of “spreading confusion”.
If the RLD does cross over to the BJP – the most likely scenario at this time – it underscores the BJP’s determination to throw its political dragnet far and wide before the Lok Sabha election, with the focus on regional parties to shore up its strength in key states.
The party has already snatched up Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his Janata Dal (United), and is expected to add one of either Andhra Pradesh’s ruling YSR Congress or the Telugu Desam Party.
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