Caste equations to decide Mathura vote, Hema's fate

Can Jayant save the seat? Jats may prove post-riot predictions wrong

ajay

Ajay Singh | April 21, 2014




"Jaat na puchho sadhu ki (Do not ask the caste of the holy people)." This conventional wisdom has been turned on its head in the twin cities of Mathura-Vrindavan where innumerable stories surrounding Lord Krishna and his consorts weave a grand Hindu mythology of love, devotion and spiritualism.

Obviously, Mathura-Vrindavan that exists in mythology is radically different from the one in reality. It is as caste-ridden as any other part of India. And the pursuit of materialism by holy men and women is evident in the huge real estate development in the guise of Ashrams. In real and political life, money and caste are critical factors.

This realisation dawned a bit late on BJP candidate Hema Malini who played Mira, a widowed Rajput princess devoted to Lord Krishna in medieval India, in a movie. But the moment she realised the significance of the caste, she started discovering her caste identity as Jat because of her marriage to Dharmendra. “I am a Jat,” she is learnt to have told women while campaigning in Jat-dominated villages.

In fact, the Mathura constituency is dominated by Jats where Jayant Singh, son of Chaudhary Ajit Singh, holds sway on the community.

Jayant won this seat in 2009 solely thanks to the fact that caste equations favoured him. But riots in Muzaffarnagar and Mathura have upset social alignments, and traditional Jat-Muslim combination has been under severe stress. If one goes by the conventional logic, Jayant should have lost his social base due to the communal hostility in western UP. But politics often tends to defy predictions. Though Jayant's performance as an MP is quite dismal, his caste credentials are proving to be a major asset. Muslims who form a sizeable chunk of the electorate have also found Jayant a credible challenger to the BJP candidate and thereby worthy of their support.

Hema Malini's presence in this constituency is intended to charm the electorate with high glamour quotient and further upset the caste equation. Initially the strategy worked in the BJP's favour – till a consolidation of Jats with Muslims appeared distinctly on the horizon. “In fact, we would have been much happier if either the SP or the BSP candidate would have made an impact. Our biggest worry is that both are counted out of the fray,” said an important BJP office-bearer.

Apparently, such a scenario is quite worrisome for the BJP which has been banking on the division of Muslim votes and the possibility of a section of Jats drifting away from Jayant's fold to side with the BJP over communal polarisation. Mathura seems to have defied this assessment and threw up a new social equation much to the chagrin of BJP strategists. This is why BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has decided to rush to the constituency to bail out yesteryears’ dream girl. Earlier BJP president Rajnath Singh toured the area to mobilise the numerically important Rajput voters.

In sum, the electoral outcome of Mathura would largely depend on managing the caste equations and spending money. Indications are that Jayant and Hema Malini are leaving nothing to chance in their straight fight.

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