Jat resentment a worry for BJP in Rajasthan, could spill into other states  

Jat resentment a worry for BJP in Rajasthan, could spill into other states  

This feeling has intensified since the Rajasthan assembly elections, with Jat leaders claiming they felt “shut out” and “sidelined” from power positions. 

Whether this anger will translate into votes will be known only after 4 June, when results for the ongoing Lok Sabha polls are declared. 

On its part, however, the BJP has downplayed this anger. When contacted, O.P. Dhankar, BJP’s national secretary and a senior Jat leader from Haryana, claimed that Jats were “very happy with the Modi government’s policies — from Abrogation of Article 370 to the 2016 surgical strike and the 2019 Balakot strike”.

“This shows the Jat community likes Modi’s valour and his trait of always keeping national interest first,” Dhankar said.

Meanwhile, some BJP leaders of the state conceded that there could be “some isolated cases of resentment” among the Jats, but these were “due to their own vested interests”.  

But Yashpal Malik, president of the Akhil Bhartiya Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, said that discontent was palpable not only in Rajasthan but also in Jat-majority areas in Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. 

The organisation spearheaded the 2016 Jat agitation for OBC status in Haryana. 

“The biggest reason for this is the way that party’s treatment of farmers during their protests (both in 2020-21 and earlier this year). The BJP had promised to implement the Swaminathan Commission report (in their manifesto) but when farmers launched an agitation to demand this, the BJP used brutal measures to suppress them,” he said. 

Political observers believe that the anger among farmers was evident in last year’s assembly polls in Rajasthan when the BJP performed poorly in Shekhawati region, political analyst Mahabir Jaglan, a Jat himself,  told ThePrint.  

“However, in Haryana, the Congress hasn’t been able to name good candidates (to beat the BJP) due to infighting. The anger of Jats can be gauged from the fact that in Haryana they don’t want just Jats but anyone who can defeat the BJP,” he said.

Also Read: BJP & JJP leaders face tough time in Haryana’s Jat heartland. Farmers protest, boo, force them away


Farmers’ protest, Agnipath scheme — the reason for Jat anger

The Jat-dominated Shekhawati region is situated in the north of Rajasthan. Its four Lok Sabha constituencies —Jhunjhunu, Churu, Sikar, and Nagaur — are among the 25 that vote Friday.  

Since 1999, when the then NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee promised to include Jats in the state’s backward class list, the BJP has counted the caste group as a core vote bank.

According to Jat leaders, the BJP government’s treatment of the farmers’ protests in 2020-21 is the primary source of resentment.

The agitation, chiefly driven by Jat Sikh farmers of Punjab and Jats farmers in Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, saw over 750 farmers die.

“Agitation by farmers in Delhi in 2020-21 and the way the BJP government at the Centre treated them proved to be a turning point in the relations between the BJP and the Jat community,” Daleep Sarawag, a resident of Churu’s Boontiya village, told ThePrint.   

 The anger was exacerbated by the “heavy-handed” treatment meted out during the second round of farmers’ protests earlier this year, he said. 

“In February this year, when farmers from Punjab tried to go to Delhi with their demands, they were welcomed by the BJP (state) government in Haryana with teargas shells and bullets,” he said.

The second source of resentment was the sexual harassment allegations against BJP strongman and former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and how the BJP dealt with the situation. Several women wrestlers who held protests against the BJP leader belonged to the caste group, leading it eventually mutate into a large reflection of Jat anger.

At Boontiya village, Sarawag talks about how the women wrestlers were treated.

“When they returned home after winning medals, they were daughters of the country, and BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, met them and called them family. But the moment they raised their voices, they became Jats and were treated mercilessly,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the Jats’ already-existing anger was compounded by the central government’s rollout of the Agnipath scheme. The policy, under which youth between 17.5 and 21 years are recruited as soldiers for a period of four years, was rolled out in 2022 and sparked many violent protests. 

The military is a major source of employment for Jats — significantly, 89 percent of the Indian Army’s Jat regiment is from the caste group.

According to Sarawag, there are few employment opportunities in the Shekhawati region. 

“There is no irrigation and so, there are fewer crops. Go to any village in this region, and you will find men serving in the armed forces and women educating their wards for army recruitment. However, the Agnipath scheme has snatched our major source of employment,” he said. 

However, author and former Rajasthan Sahitya Akademi chairman Dularam Saharan believes the anger against the BJP isn’t limited to the Jats of Rajasthan.  

“I’m against looking at the elections with the caste perspective. The farmers’ agitation was not by the Jats alone but by all farmers. Take the example of Rashtriya Loktantrik Party MP Hanuman Beniwal, a former BJP ally who broke away from the BJP because of the farmers’ protest. Now, he is the Congress candidate against BJP’s Jyoti Mirdha,” he said.

Beniwal, a Jat leader from Rajasthan, parted ways with the BJP in 2020, is the Opposition INDIA bloc’s candidate from Nagaur.  


There is another major reason for the Jat anger — their seeming political sidelining, especially since the 2023 assembly elections. 

In March, months before the assembly polls, the BJP replaced appointed Brahmin leader and Chittorgarh MP CP Joshi as its party chief, replacing Jat leader Satish Poonia.

In December, days after the BJP won the assembly polls, the party appointed RSS man Bhajanlal Sharma as the state’s first Brahmin chief minister since 1990, with former Jaipur royal Diya Kumari and Dalit leader Prem Chand Bairwa as his deputies.

Although the party eventually appointed four Jat leaders to its cabinet, the caste group sees itself as sidelined.  

According to Sarawag, the BJP’s decision to sideline Vasundhara Raje, the former Scindia family royal who branded herself as a Jat bahu, has fuelled the Jat anger.

“In 2003, Vasundhara Raje, who is married into the Jat royal family from Dholpur, brought the caste group closer to the BJP, and, for the first time, the party won 120 seats in Rajasthan. In 2013, the BJP under Vasundhra Raje got a record 163 seats. But still, the BJP under Narendra Modi completely ignored Raje,” Sarawag said, adding that after the assembly elections, “the party didn’t give any important posts to Jats”.

Jat leader and two-time Churu MP Rahul Kaswan claims “his supporters” are still resentful of the BJP’s treatment of him. A sitting MP and a Raje loyalist, Kaswan joined the Congress this year after the BJP dropped him from Churu — his family bastion — instead fielding Paralympian Devendra Jhajharia. 

“The dissatisfaction over not giving me a ticket has spread to constituencies like Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Nagaur, Sri Ganganagar, Jaipur Rural, Bharatpur, Karauli-Dholpur, and some other seats too,” he said.

Malik too believes Jats feel ignored in Rajasthan. 

“In 2019, out of the 25 MPs Rajasthan gave to the BJP, eight were Jats. Still, the BJP appointed only one Jat leader — Kailash Choudhary — to Modi’s council of ministers as a minister of state,” he said, adding that this, along with the subsequent developments made the caste group feel “they were not needed”.

When contacted, senior BJP leader and former Rajasthan leader of opposition Rajendra Rathore refused to comment on the allegations, saying only that “all communities were supporting the BJP”.

On 13 April, however, Rathore attended a farmers’ meeting organised by Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Jayant Chaudhary, grandson of Jat icon Chaudhary Charan Singh at Churu’s Taranagar.

Also Read: No point working with Khattar when there’s no faith, says former Haryana home minister Anil Vij


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