It’s a grudge that has been voiced time and again by the Jat community, the dominant caste group in Rajasthan, with a formidable electoral presence. But, despite its numerical supremacy based on the strictest estimates — Rajasthan’s Jat population is estimated to be above 10 per cent, although some community members claim it to be much more — there is yet to be a Jat chief minister in the state, a fact the Jat politicians are now reminding the community Written by Deep Mukherjee
Jaipur | Updated: March 16, 2023 11:03 IST
Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president Govind Singh Dotasra speaks during the Jat Mahakumbh It’s a grudge that has been voiced time and again by the Jat community, the dominant caste group in Rajasthan, with a formidable electoral presence. But, despite its numerical supremacy based on the strictest estimates — Rajasthan’s Jat population is estimated to be above 10 per cent, although some community members claim it to be much more — there is yet to be a Jat chief minister in the state, a fact the Jat politicians are now reminding the community, ahead of the state Assembly polls later this year.
At the recent Jat Mahakumbh — a massive gathering of the Jat community at Jaipur on March 5 — the clamour for a Jat CM once again echoed through the gathering.
“The second (most-important) post in Rajasthan, that of Home Minister, should be of Jats. At least someone (should) make us Number 2. The Jats of Rajasthan will help any government that makes a Jat the state Home Minister, win (the Assembly),” said Mirdha in his speech at the Jat Mahakumbh.
As Mirdha — his son Vijaypal is a Congress MLA in the Ashok Gehlot-led government — was speaking, voices of disagreement could be heard. Murmurs in the audience said Jats should not settle for Number 2, but only accept the CM’s post What Mirdha couldn’t say was emphatically asserted by Congress leader Rameshwar Dudi. Dudi was the Leader of the Opposition from 2013 to 2018. While the Congress did form the government after winning the 2018 elections, Dudi’s political career suffered a setback when he lost from his Assembly constituency, and has found himself in the political wilderness ever since.
“Richpal ji said we want the Number 2 seat. On the other hand, we’re saying that our community’s share of Rajasthan’s population is 25 per cent. But families of our community always think that our community should have the Number 1 seat in politics. What is that Number 1 seat? Rameshwar Dudi doesn’t fear anyone. Rajasthan’s Jat sons, sons of farmers, should become the CM,” said Dudi to rapturous applause from the audience.
As this exchange was taking place, Govind Singh Dotasra, the state Congress president, and Satish Poonia, the Rajasthan BJP chief, were both sitting on stage. Both are Jat leaders, but they avoided openly calling for a Jat CM, primarily because of political compulsions.
While in Dotasra’s party, CM Gehlot, who is from the Mali caste, has thrice sat on the CM’s chair since 1998, the next Congress leader in contention for the CM’s post is Sachin Pilot, a Gujjar. “I pledge that I’ll never let my community down with any of my actions. Above my party and party’s ideology, first, I’m of my community, which has helped me reach this position,” said Dotasra at the Mahakumbh In Poonia’s BJP, Vasundhara Raje, who addressed herself as the daughter-in-law of Jats, had got the community to back her when she became the CM for the first time in 2003. The two-time former CM is very much in the fray for a possible third term, resulting in Poonia’s CM ambitions being clouded in uncertainty. “Jat ka kaam to upar chadhne ka hai, niche utarne ka to kisi aur ka hi hai (The job of Jats is to rise above, it is someone else’s job to go down),” Poonia had said at the event.
Apart from the fact that both state presidents of the Congress and the BJP are Jats, the community has more than 35 seats in the 200-member state Assembly.
So, despite such political might, why could a Jat never become the CM of Rajasthan? The answer lies in the fact that each time a Jat politician has appeared close to occupying the CM’s chair, circumstances have dashed the hopes of the community The Jats, the largest farming community in Rajasthan, had undertaken a long struggle against the feudal society of erstwhile Rajputana, which was predominantly ruled by Rajput kings and jagirdars. The Jats supported Congress and became the party’s main support base in the initial years after Independence. The very first Congress government in the state abolished the jagirdari system and introduced land reforms in the 1950s, giving farmers rights over the land they irrigated. It was at this time when Jat leaders such as Nathu Ram Mirdha, Kumbha Ram Arya and Ram Niwas Mirdha went on to become multiple-time MLAs, state and Union ministers, with their families founding political dynasties.
But when it came to the CM’s post, the Jats lost out on each occasion. Hari Dev Joshi defeated Ram Niwas Mirdha in the CLP meeting held in 1973 and went on to become the CM of Rajasthan. In 1998, the Congress won 150 seats in the 200-member Assembly, its highest tally till date, as the Jats voted overwhelmingly for senior leader Parasaram Maderna, hoping to see a community member become the CM. At the time, Maderna was the Leader of the Opposition and was projected as the party’s face. But the Congress high command stepped in and backed Gehlot, the then state Congress chief and party president Sonia Gandhi’s choice, in the race for the CM’s chair. Despite the backing of a majority of MLAs, Maderna abided by the high command’s instructions and paved the way for Gehlot to become the CM for the first time At the recent Jat Mahakumbh, Nagaur MP Hanuman Beniwal, one of the most prominent Jat leaders and founder of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), was missing. Known to not see eye-to-eye with the Rajasthan Jat Mahasabha led by Raja Ram Meel — the organiser of the event — Beniwal in recent times has urged Jats not to vote for either the Congress or the BJP, and instead vote for the RLP.