• Sunday, March 03, 2024

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Modi’s Bharat Ratna to iconic farmer leader to break India opposition unity again?

The former PM and farmer leader’s grandson Jayant Chaudhary, the chief of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, an opposition party, expressed his joy after Modi’s announcement came.

(L-R) Former Indian PM Chaudhary Charan Singh and Indian PM Narendra Modi (ANI Photo)

By: Shubham Ghosh

A FEW days ago, the Narendra Modi government’s decision to confer Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, to social justice icon Karpoori Thakur saw the opposition INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) thinning with a key leader in Nitish Kumar walking away to join the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

A similar situation seemed to unfold as the Modi government on Friday (9) revealed its decision to award Bharat Ratna posthumously to another towering leader — Chaudhary Charan Singh — a former prime minister and an iconic farmer’s leader from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Confirming the news, Modi said, “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…”.

Read: Modi awards Bharat Ratna to two former India PMs, father of Green Revolution

Moments after the news broke, Jayant Chaudhary, grandson of Chaudhary Charan Singh and chief of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), a member of the INDIA bloc, tweeted, “Dil jeet liya (he won our hearts).”

The conferment of Bharat Ratna on Charan Singh came at a time when Modi’s BJP and Chaudhary’s RLD was in the middle of a seat-sharing deal. Sources told India’s NDTV that the BJP was ready to give the latter, which commands substantial support among the Jat community and farmers in western Uttar Pradesh, two seats in the Lok Sabha or Lower House of the parliament and one in the Rajya Sabha or Upper House in lieu of its support. They also said that the RLD had made awarding a Bharat Ratna to Charan Singh a key condition for any understanding.

Read: Conferring Bharat Ratna on social justice icon: Modi’s pre-poll masterstroke

Another report cited inside sources in the RLD saying that the BJP promised them four seats in the Lok Sabha, a federal ministry and two ministries in Uttar Pradesh government if it returns to power in this year’s general elections.

Now, with the Bharat Ratna criterion being fulfilled, it might be a matter of time before Chaudhary’s outfit walks out of the INDIA bloc to join hands with the BJP and deliver a blow to the opposition unity in the key state of Uttar Pradesh.

The 45-year-old Chaudhary’s reported silence on the matter has added fuel to the speculation. Even the Samajwadi Party (SP), a key opposition player in Uttar Pradesh which entered into an alliance with the SP in the state, is facing uncertainty. It is hoping that the RLD will not exit the INDIA platform and accused the BJP of creating confusion.

A senior RLD leader told the Indian Express, “Things have been almost finalised between us and the BJP. The formal announcement may happen soon, perhaps in a day or two.”

The BJP, which is also the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh, has also been making cryptic remarks on the matter, stoking the speculation.

The saffron party’s move also comes at a time when farmers have started a protest near Uttar Pradesh’s border with the national capital, Delhi, for better compensation and land prices.

The RLD and the SP have been allies in Uttar Pradesh since the 2019 general elections when the former contested from three constituencies as part of a grand alliance but lost all of them. In the 2022 Uttar Pradesh polls, it could win only nine of the 33 constituencies where it contested.

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