Lucknow: After making splashes with his activism, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad is all set to foray into electoral politics, eyeing the Dalit-Muslim-OBC vote bank.
Speaking to ThePrint, Azad said he will formally announce the formation of his party on 15 March — the birth anniversary of Dalit icon and Bahujan Samaj Party founder Kanshi Ram.
Azad said his yet-unnamed party will immediately begin preparations for the Bihar assembly elections and Uttar Pradesh panchayat polls, scheduled to be held later this year.
The party is also likely to contest all 403 assembly seats in UP in the 2022 state elections.
According to Azad, he wants to be a strong voice of the Bahujans. The Bhim Army has been constantly fighting on the streets for the rights of the community and the time has come to take this to the House, he said.
“Those who are currently occupying the seat of power are suppressing our rights and now the time has come to dislodge them and place our own people in power,” said Azad.
To this end, Azad is seeking to secure the support of Other Backward Classes (OBCs). On Monday, he met Uttar Pradesh’s influential OBC leader Om Prakash Rajbhar, who is the president of Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP).
There are also reports that several leaders of Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have joined the Bhim Army in Lucknow.
Creating an alliance
Chandrashekhar Azad’s meeting with former Uttar Pradesh cabinet minister Om Prakash Rajbhar has created ripples in the state’s political corridor.
Plans are afoot to create an OBC alliance group under the leadership of Rajbhar, which will be called ‘Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha’ and will also include the Bhim Army as one of its constituents, Rajbhar had said after the meeting.
Babu Singh Kushwaha, a former senior cabinet minister in the Mayawati-led BSP government, is also part of this front with his Jan Adhikar Party.
The move comes in an attempt to unite all backward communities — Dalits and minorities — with the help of this broad-based alliance.
Currently, Rajbhar’s party SBSP, having a firm political grip on some districts of eastern UP, has 4 MLAs in the UP assembly. It contested the 2017 assembly elections in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but parted ways just before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Kushwaha comes from the Bundelkhand region, which is considered as an OBC-dominated area.
Azad has a strong presence in western UP where some districts, like Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Moradabad, and Bijnor, have a large Dalit and Muslim population.
The trio’s front is being prepared keeping in mind the different political equations prevailing in eastern, western and Bundelkhand regions of UP.
BSP leaders’ entry
Chandrashekhar Azad has often expressed an admiration for BSP supremo Mayawati. But with his electoral foray, he is setting himself up as a political alternative to her party.
His move has been boosted with the entry of several BSP leaders and workers over the last few days. On Monday, ex-BSP MLC Sunil Chittod joined the Bhim Army. Apart from him, other senior party leaders like Ram Lakhan Chaurasia, Izharul Haque and Ashok Chaudhary have also joined the organisation.
Sources in the BSP told ThePrint that many other party leaders are likely to join the Bhim Army after Azad’s formal announcement.
Fight in Uttar Pradesh
While Azad is relying on Dalit-Muslim-OBC support formula, the presence of established parties like Samajwadi Party and BSP could dent his plans.
While the Lok Sabha election results were not in SP’s favour, it continues to have a strong command over the OBC and Muslim communities.
Meanwhile, Mayawati’s electoral failure in the last few elections hasn’t diminished the Dalit community’s respect for her, according to Kaviraj, a political science professor at Lucknow University.
Azad is liked by the youth as an activist, but it’s too early to say how much he will be accepted as a political alternative to Mayawati. He is often seen raising Dalits’ voices on the streets and has been willing to go to jail also but electoral politics depends a lot on right equations, said Kaviraj.
A clearer picture on his acceptance as an electoral option will emerge only after a few months, he added.