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30 May 2021

RLD facing a crisis of confidence, will rejuvenate cadre, bolster farmers’ cause: Jayant Chaudhary

As he comes out of the political shadow of his father, late Ajit Singh, newly elected chief of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Jayant Chaudhary faces the mammoth task of resurrecting his party ahead of the high-stakes UP assembly elections next year. The 42-year-old post graduate from London School of Economics speaks to Pankaj Shah about challenges ahead and his plans to revive RLD, which has been facing an existential crisis since the drubbing in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Q: You are the third-generation in your family to head a political party founded by your grandfather Chaudhary Charan Singh. How do you counter the nepotism narrative (parivarwaad)?

It is a fair question, but I don’t need to counter it. My work will speak and people won’t raise that query. My party followed procedure before appointing me president and we added sanctity to the process. Also, I am not a greenhorn. I have been active in politics since 2002.

Q: You face an enormous challenge of taking forward the legacy of your grandfather and former PM Chaudhary Charan Singh and father Ajit Singh. How will you do it?

Now, conditions are similar and so are issues taken up by my grandfather and father. The core issues remain and it’s pertinent to take these up in the wake of farmers’ agitation against new farm laws.

Q: Your party has been facing a political crisis for seven years. In fact, your father Ajit Singh and you both lost Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and then in 2019. What are your plans to resurrect your party ahead of 2022 assembly elections?

My first step will be to acknowledge the situation. We certainly face a crisis of confidence in our cadre. I will try my best to directly communicate with party workers through online meetings. My father may have lost the elections from Muzaffarnagar in 2019, but he won hearts. His idea was to contest from a place which symbolised politics of hate after 2013 communal riots. The ‘bhaichara zindabad’ campaign was envisaged to build harmony and this will continue in the time to come.

Q: Would you bring back the old guard and cultivate a new breed of leadership?

I have appealed to veterans, who earlier associated with RLD to return to the fold. I need their guidance. Also, mobilising young leaders is the key in the current political spectrum. There also needs to be a gender balance and more women should be involved in active politics.

Q: What are your views vis-a-vis government’s response to the prevailing Corona pandemic?

The government has been ill-prepared to face the pandemic. Most families, including mine (father Ajit Singh succumbed to Covid) have faced the brunt. The government mishandled the crisis and instead of providing a healing touch, it’s acting against those who are speaking out on various platforms, including social media.

Q: Opposition raising its voice against a ruling dispensation is not new. BJP has been asking the opposition to support the government in this time of crisis. But that does not seem to happen. Your views.

A full-fledged propaganda war is continuing despite bodies afloat in rivers and shrouds removed to mask reality. The Opposition is bound to take up the issues like this. It is our duty and responsibility.

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