The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Litmus test for Mulayam, Ajit
Ajit Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav: Coalition on trial

Meerut, May 6: For a coalition, AJGARAM is a funny name. But then it has been dubbed “impregnable”.

Observers believe the alliance the Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal have formed goes beyond maximising seat gains. An improvisation on the old MAJGAR, it has brought Ahirs (Yadavs), Jats, Gujjars, Rajputs (Thakurs) and Muslims together.

In the past, too, almost every Lok Sabha and Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh in the post-Mandir-Mandal era has seen some sort of alliance, cemented formally or cobbled together on caste and ideological lines.

In 1991, the Janata Dal split but Mulayam Singh Yadav and Chandra Shekhar stayed together. In 1993, the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party forged an axis of the backward castes, Dalits and Muslims; but it was short-lived. In 1997, the BSP and Congress closed ranks for the Assembly polls and in 1999, the Congress and Ajit Singh’s Lok Dal teamed up for the general elections.

Mulayam Singh and Ajit Singh’s political turfs are not contiguous. But AJGARAM has been billed as an “impregnable” coalition as it regrouped the landowning castes of western Uttar Pradesh on one platform for the first time since Muslims and Rajputs made common cause with the other AJGARAM constituents after then chief minister Charan Singh enforced the Land Ceiling Act in the region.

So will this combination work to the extent that Mulayam Singh and Ajit expect'

A visit to the election office of the Samajwadi-Lok Dal candidate in Meerut, Malook Nagar, was revealing. Although Nagar is a backward caste Gujjar, the office is a hub of various castes and communities. The Jats, Rajputs, Jains, Dalits, Prajapatis and Muslims present there spoke less of caste identities and more of the larger economic and political issues bothering them.

“In that sense this is a secular coalition,” says Choudhury Kaan Singh, a Thakur activist of the Samajwadi from Mehjali village. “When two chelas (followers) of Charan Singh and (socialist leader) Ram Manohar Lohia come together, it is natural for their bhakts to follow suit.”

Mahendra Singh, a former colleague of Jat leader and namesake Tikait of Muzaffarnagar, says: “If this combination had happened before, the poor would not suffer at the hands of the BJP government. To fund the government’s grand highway project, we have to pay a one rupee extra surcharge on diesel. Where do farmers use the highway in any case' We don’t get fair returns on our crop produce.”

“Feel good' Ask me how good I feel with my wheat crops destroyed in the recent hailstorm and rain,” says Vinod Kumar, block pramukh of Khargoda.

These activists have a ready answer when asked how they could think of the Samajwadi Party as a “pro-poor” outfit after Mulayam Singh’s open patronage of the Bombay Club.

“The capitalists he invited to Lucknow are friends of the marginalised and poor because their investments will mean more jobs and money,” says Kaan Singh.

Because Nagar has a base vote of 30 per cent Muslims, 13 per cent Jats, 5 per cent Rajputs and 20 per cent Gujjars, even the traders of Meerut wonder if they should “waste” their vote on the JD(U)-BJP candidate.

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