The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sangh steps in to save Kalyan

Bulandshahr, May 5: Hindutva votaries no longer regard him as “Hindu hriday ka samrat”. Not after he accused the BJP top brass of “conspiring” to demolish the Babri mosque. His Lodhi-Rajput followers, too, are miffed with him for the “compromise” he struck with Atal Bihari Vajpayee after positioning himself as a caste messiah in the mould of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayavati. The local BJP unit has withdrawn itself from his campaign after he anointed son Rajveer as the chief overseer. And caste arithmetic, at the heart of Uttar Pradesh politics, is loaded against him.

So how does Kalyan Singh hope to win Bulandshahr, arguably the BJP’s second most prestigious constituency after Lucknow' Not only will he have to prove a point to his detractors in the factionalised state BJP, he will also have to vindicate the hopes vested in him by the central leadership, including Vajpayee, who was willing to forgive and forget the former chief minister calling him names.

First, the caste arithmetic of this constituency that goes to polls on May 10. Muslims constitute 19 per cent of the ne- arly 12 lakh electorate, Dalits 22 per cent, Jats, Brahmins and Thakurs eight per cent each, Lodhis and Rajputs six, Gujjars five and Brahmins four per cent.

Chattrapal Singh, three- time BJP MP and a Lodhi like Kalyan, says he could not have won on the basis of just his caste votes and those of the party’s committed upper caste supporters.

A former Charan Singh loyalist who left the Lok Dal and joined the BJP in 1996, Singh says he secured a sizeable number of votes of every caste and community, including Muslims. “My Lok Dal net- work and the fact that I was not part of the Babri era helped me.”

Bulandshahr’s poll history shows that Muslim nominees have won the seat thrice since Independence. As they had Charan Singh’s blessings, the winning MAJGAR (Muslim-Ahir-(Yadav)-Gujjar-Rajput) formula did the trick. This time, the Rashtriya Lok Dal-Samajwadi Party coalition has put up a Muslim candidate, Badr-ul-Islam, in the hope that the MAJGAR factor or AJAGARAM as it is now called, will work.

Kalyan’s woes are compounded as the Congress and the BSP have put up Brahmin candidates, Chandrashekhar Sharma and Devendra Bharadwaj, respectively. “Normally, even a 10 per cent share of the Brahmin vote would have sufficed for the BJP because it would have had the support of the Lodhis, Jats, Gujjars and Rajputs. That’s unlikely to happen this time,” says a BJP worker.

The RSS and the VHP have decided to bail out Kalyan through the time-tested Hindutva route. “When Brahmins see the Muslims consolidating behind Islam, they are saying, ‘we don’t want a person who symbolises Hindutva to lose and that, too, to a Muslim’,” says Bulandshahr district VHP chief Rukan Singh Payal. The VHP took out a yatra in the constituency ostensibly to explain its “Hindutva agenda”, but Payal admits it was meant to help Kalyan.

Kiran Pal Singh, a Samajwadi legislator from Agota in Bulandshahr and a Jat, thinks the Hindutva card won’t work. “Mulayam and Ajit Singh are the true legatees of Charan Singh’s pro-farmer politics. That’s enough to win over Jats. Jat support for the Ram temple was an aberration,” he maintains.

Choudhry Satpal, the Jat pradhan of Kushalpur, supports Singh’s argument. “Only the samajhdar (learned) Jats will vote the BJP because they understand the value of having a leader like Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But the majority will root for Ajit Singh. They refuse to see the fact that it was Mulayam who opposed giving reservation to Jats,” he says.

If the “learned” Jats label Ajit a “fair-weather friend” given his penchant for switching sides, a section of the Lodhi-Rajputs sees Kalyan as a “loser”, figuratively speaking. “We had great hopes from him when he left the BJP and floated his party. He should have stuck it out instead of losing heart and compromising with the BJP. Kalyan Singh was known to have immense self-respect and pride. Where has all that vanished' He can no longer take our support for granted,” says Ram Kumar Verma, former activist of Kalyan’s defunct Rashtriya Kranti Party.

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