Jayant Singh Chaudhary is the vice president of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, a regional political party which has its base in western Uttar Pradesh. The RLD was formed in 1996, by Ajit Singh, Jayant’s father, after Ajit broke away from the Janata Dal. Its predecessor was the Lok Dal, founded in 1980, by Chaudhary Charan Singh, Jayant’s grandfather. Charan Singh was a former prime minister of India and a famous farmers’ leader. Since its inception, the RLD has, at various points, allied with the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, and contested legislative council, legislative assembly and Lok Sabha elections from Uttar Pradesh. In 2018, it fielded a candidate for the first time outside of UP, for the Rajasthan assembly elections. Its candidate, Subhash Garg, won and is the party’s sole member of legislative assembly currently. The party’s best performance was in 2009, when it won five seats in the Lok Sabha in alliance with the BJP. Two years later, the RLD broke away from the BJP and joined the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.
Jayant was the RLD’s member of parliament from Mathura between 2009 and 2014. In 2019, he contested the Lok Sabha elections from Baghpat but lost to the BJP’s Satyapal Singh. He is an alumnus of the London School of Economics and served on Standing Committees on agriculture, finance and ethics during his time in the Lok Sabha. Sunil Kashyap, a reporting fellow at The Caravan, spoke to Jayant about the ongoing farmers’ protests against the three farm laws recently enacted by the BJP government, and the political landscape of UP.
Sunil Kashyap: Can you tell us what the farm laws are and why are farmers so angry that they have taken to the streets? Do you think their demands are justified?
Jayant Singh Chaudhary: The laws have been named after the farmer—this government excels in naming things. But the bills, the reason behind the bills, the haste [with which they were passed]; its motivations have less to do with the farmer and farming. Out of the three laws that were brought in, one of them is called the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance Bill. Neither does it have anything to do with empowerment, nor does it provide any protection and there is nothing about price assurance either. If there was price assurance, then the provision of MSP [Minimum Support Price] would have been a legal guarantee under this law. They do not even mention MSP but they have given it that name.
Since the BJP has come to power, this is their main focus—they want the centralisation of politics, the centralisation of power, be it economic or social. Accordingly, there is a process of formalisation of the economy going on—the formal sector is going to be emphasised.
The country is going through a financial crisis. People in villages do not have the money to even pay their children’s school fees. People can’t even pay their electricity bills. But if you look at the stock market—new highs, all time, lifetime highs, the stock market is jumping higher. That’s because that’s the formal sector—the country has just about 200 to 250 such corporate entities. And only 4 or 5 among them are the main players, the ones who have benefitted the most since the BJP came to power. These are the people who are running this government. They are the power behind the laws that are being made.