UP: Amid Talk of RLD-BJP Deal, PM Modi Announces Bharat Ratna for Charan Singh
Chaudhary Charan Singh. Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
Lucknow: Amid growing buzz of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) jumping ship from the Opposition INDIA bloc to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna -- the fifth one in 2024 -- for former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh for his "incomparable contribution" to the country.
Incidentally, the late farmer leader is the grandfather of now RLD chief Jayant Choudhary, whose party has a support base in Western Uttar Pradesh but failed to win any seat in the 17th Lok Sabha. Choudhary is now a Rajya Sabha MP.
"It is the good fortune of our government that former Prime Minister of the country Chaudhary Charan Singh is being honored with Bharat Ratna. This honor is dedicated to his incomparable contribution to the country. He had dedicated his entire life to the rights and welfare of farmers," Modi wrote, announcing the award on X (formerly Twitter).
He added, "He dedicated his life to the welfare of farmers... whether as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh or Home Minister of the country, and even as MLA, he always gave impetus to nation-building. He stood against the Emergency (and) his dedication to our farmer brothers and sisters is inspiring..."
Charan Singh had served as the fifth Prime Minister of India and was two-time Chief Minister of UP.
Within minutes, Chaudhary tweeted: "Dil jeet Liya (Hearts have been won)."
Speaking to reporters, he said, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proven that he understands and knows the core values of the country very well.”
When questioned over a poll alliance with BJP, Chaudhary said, "Koi kasar rehti hai? Aaj main kis muh se inkaar karoon aapke sawalon ko", (Is there anything left? How can I deny your questions today)?'
Thanking PM Modi and BJP for the award, the RLD chief said: "What previous governments could not do was today completed by PM Modi's vision. I would like to once again express my gratitude to PM Modi's government for encouraging people who aren't part of the mainstream. It is a big day... and an emotional moment for me.".
‘DEAL’ ON 3 SEATS?
Meanwhile, several people who have been closely following the developments told NewsClick that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has offered RLD, which has substantial support among Jats and farmers in Western UP, two Lok Sabha seats and one Rajya Sabha seat in return for its support.
UP sends the highest number of 80 MPs to Lok Sabha.
Political observers also told NewsClick that RLD had made the Bharat Ratna for Chaudhary Charan Singh a key condition for any electoral deal with BJP.
"Jayant cleared the air that his alliance with BJP has been finalised. Apart from seats for Lok Sabha, Bharat Ratna for his grandfather Chaudhary Charan Singh was a key condition for any agreement with NDA. Jayant Chaudhary's party is likely to get three seats, including Mathura, Baghpat and Muzaffarnagar. Besides, a ministerial berth in the UP cabinet," Parvez Tyagi, a senior journalist in Muzaffarnagar, told NewsClick.
Sources close to BJP said the saffron party had offered RLD two berths in UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's cabinet, but RLD also wanted a seat in Prime Minister Modi's cabinet at the Centre.
Tyagi said by announcing the Bharat Ratna for Charan Singh, PM Modi had “silenced” the Jat community among farmers, which is against the BJP over the farmers' issue, sugarcane price and minimum support price.
Kubul Qureshi, a senior journalist who has been covering UP politics, told NewsClick that BJP is said to have offered only two seats to RLD - Baghpat and Bijnor -- and one Rajya Sabha seat. It is believed that former BJP leader Sompal Shastri will be elected from this seat. While Jayant Chaudhry’s wife has been finalised as a candidate from Baghpat.
Several political watchers believe that the Opposition could have given a tough fight to BJP in Amroha, Bijnor, Nagina, Baghpat, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Moradabad and Kairana, Mathura and Hathras, where Jats are in a large number, but this move by the BJP could dent the INDIA bloc.
"BJP is not gaining anything from Jayant's entry, as Jats have been traditional BJP voters. But it is a huge blow to the Opposition because the strategy to bring Muslims and Jats together might have given a tough fight to BJP on several seats in West UP. Clearly, BJP did not want to take any political risk, hence this deal was struck," Qureshi added.
He said by announcing the Bharat Ratna to Chaudhary Charan Singh, PM Modi has sent a message to Jat farmers as well as Haryana wrestlers who were upset with the ruling government and its policies.
Last month, the RLD had confirmed an alliance with Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, under which it was to contest seven Lok Sabha seats. Faced with possibly losing the RLD's backing, Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday told reporters that Chaudhary is a "very well-educated person... (who) understands politics".
The RLD and the SP have been allies in UP since the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when the Jayant-led party contested three constituencies as part of a “Mahagathbandhan” that also included the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The RLD lost all three seats while the SP won five of the 37 it contested.
The SP and RLD fought the 2022 Assembly elections in alliance, but failed to prevent BJP’s return to power in Uttar Pradesh, winning only 111 seats out of the 347 it contested. The BJP secured 255 seats and formed the government once again under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath. The SP had then provided 33 seats to RLD, which could only win nine.
Earlier, the SP chief hadsaid he hoped he (Jayant) would not weaken the struggle against BJP "for the welfare of farmers and prosperity of the state". His party was more explicit. SP general secretary Shivpal Yadav said "Jayant will not go anywhere", and accused the BJP of "spreading confusion".
RLD’s switchover to BJP’s side is being seen a ‘major blow’ to the Opposition INDIA bloc amid Congress and SP attempting to resolve differences over seat-sharing.
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