The snowballing of the Jat agitation in Haryana, the state which the BJP had swept in the general and Assembly elections in 2014, has raised questions on the saffron party's governance. Has the BJP really backed up the victories in that state through its governance in the last one-and-half years?
A worrisome aspect of the Jat agitation is that it has widened the gap between the dominant Jat and non-Jat communities, who had voted for the BJP in the 2014 Assembly polls, and posed serious threat to communal peace in the state. The demand for reservation of the Jats is almost two-decades old. But then why has it suddenly become a big issue now?
BJP played with fire by making reservation promises to Jats
The current BJP government of Haryana which is led by a non-Jat chief minister in Manohar Lal Khattar had promised OBC reservation for the Jats in its poll manifesto in 2014 but did not really pursue the case, leading to the angry protests. And since it did not really deliver on the promises, all its assurances now look more to control the damage than actually do the issue any meaningful service.
The issue involves legal complexities, thanks to previous Congress govts
The Khattar government will find the current problem more difficult to handle since it isn't just confined to politics and involves legal complexities as well. The former Congress-led UPA government and the Centre and the party's government in Haryana had tried to provide reservation to the Jats but both found the judiciary on their way.
The problem involves legal complexities and hence wouldn't be easy for BJP
While the Supreme Court quashed the UPA's initiative to grant the status to the OBC in 2014 early last year, the former BS Hooda government's efforts to do the same was stayed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court a few months later. Both the governments' had tried to gain electorally through the reservation route in the central and Assembly elections, respectively.
Inexperienced BJP govt did not have any channels to engage with aggrieved Jats
Given this background, the BJP dug its own grave by taking the same route of promising reservation to the dominant community and did not even bother to increase engagement with the community leaders and organisations to understand the looming threat. The saffron party, which is in charge of Haryana for the first time and its inexperienced chief minister, was exposed in predicting and handling the crisis.
Khattar's own non-Jat identity is under question as a result of the crisis
There is also every chance now that CM Khattar's non-Jat identity face serious questions. Khattar's becoming the CM in 2014 had ended a long tradition of Haryana being led by a Jat chief minister and did not go do well with the dominant community. In the 2014 Assembly elections, the BJP did not win much seats from the Jat epicentre, where the crisis has fast evolved. Can the BJP better the situation in Haryana by replacing Khattar with a Jat?
If the crisis affects UP too, Modi-Amit Shah duo will fave fresh problems next year
However, Khattar is a small part of the story. If the current agitation spreads to the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh which is also home to a considerable Jat population, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his lieutenant Amit Shah will have their task cut out to see the BJP through in next year's Assembly polls.