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“Dalit-Muslim Ekta”: How Chandrashekhar Azad Is Slowly Denting Mayawati’s Stronghold?

Azad Samaj Party (ASP), the recently formed political venture of Chandrashekhar Azad, is contesting ongoing Bihar assembly polls.

Azad Samaj Party (ASP), the recently formed political venture of Chandrashekhar Azad, is contesting ongoing Bihar assembly polls. Azad, who emerged as a prominent anti-establishment figure during anti-CAA protests, is now toiling to make his presence felt in Bihar. Drawing modest crowds to his rallies, Azad has been impressive for someone who’s contesting elections for the first time, that too outside his own state.

Azad certainly does not have any political and monetary backing as such, though he has formed the Progressive Democratic Alliance with Pappu Yadav’s Jan Adhikar Party and a couple of other small parties. The president of Azad Samaj Party, Chandrashekhar Azad has fielded 30 candidates in the Bihar Polls. As per ASP leaders, at least 10 candidates from their party are into a neck to neck fight.

Azad has formed the Progressive Democratic Alliance with Pappu Yadav’s Jan Adhikar Party and a couple of other small parties

Though Azad’s ASP may look inconsequential in Bihar assembly polls, even a modest success here may potentially impact the political dynamics in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

Since the formation of Bhim Army in 2015, Chandrashekhar Aza has been consistently pushing issues of Dalit rights and has been jailed for the same on many instances. Dalit community, which’s been tired of tokenism politics by a majority of leaders representing them, has been fascinated towards Azad for his blunt and confrontational politics. Azad speaks their language, raises voice for them and gets jailed for them often. His rallies, protests and public meetings have garnered a huge response since he emerged as one of the loudest voices during CAA-NRC demonstrations.

This is perhaps the reason why Azad has entered into the electoral politics from Bihar. Even if ASP manages to win 2 seats in Bihar Assembly polls, it will send a message in UP that Azad is a serious political contender outside the state as well.

The formation of Azad Samaj Party on the birth anniversary of BSP founder Kanshi Ram sent a clear message to Mayawati’s BSP, which has so far been the sole beneficiary of the Dalit votes.

The formation of Azad Samaj Party on the birth anniversary of BSP founder Kanshi Ram sent a clear message to Mayawati’s BSP.

 

Mayawati’s BSP, on the other hand, seems to have lost its edge over the years. In 2007 UP assembly elections, the BSP secured a majority with 30 per cent votes. However, the vote percentage came down to 26 per cent in 2012, and 22 per cent in 2017. In the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 and 2019, the BSP’s vote percentage has stayed around 20 per cent.

According to political analysts in Uttar Pradesh, the main reason for this decline has been the alienation of non-Jatavs who constitute about 45 per cent of the Dalits, who comprise 21.6 per cent of the population in UP. The non-Jatavs have been pulled towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), thanks to RSS’ efforts to reach out to them.

Azad is now eyeing Mayawati’s old vote bank. Dalits, including Jatavs and non-Jatavs, Muslims and backward classes are at the prime focus of Azad’s new party, and it has been visible through his agitations in the last few years.

Azad sat for a demonstration outside Delhi’s Safdarjang hospital where a 20-year-old Hathras woman, who was allegedly gang-raped, died. Mayawati, on the other hand, chose to express her anguish over Twitter. Azad not only protested outside the Safdarjung hospital but also went to Hathras to meet the victim’s family after she was allegedly cremated in dead of the night by police. Mayawati, however, chose not to go to Hathras. The victim belonged to the Valmiki community from UP.

Azad sat for a demonstration outside Delhi’s Safdarjang hospital where a 20-year-old Hathras woman, who was allegedly gang-raped, died. (PTI)

 

The visuals of Azad, holding the picture of BR Ambedkar while reading out the preamble of Indian constitution to the huge crowd of Anti-CAA protestors at Jama Masjid, has been carved in the memories of his supporters, who have increased many folds in the last one year. Azad leading the fight against CAA from the front made him an overnight symbol of Dalit-Muslim unity.

Thousands gathered at Jama Masjid in January on Azad’s call to protest against CAA, NRC.

 

Many old guards of the BSP have already left the party, while many wait for the right options to switch their loyalties. If Azad’s party manages to put up a considerably good show, winning at least a couple of seats, it may trigger mass defections from the BSP to his party ahead of the UP assembly election in 2022.

“Kanshi Ram ji is my guru. He is the one who showed us the way to political power. I represent the Bahujan identity. Kanshi Ram rallied the Bahujan community which includes SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities who had been away from the mainstream for long,” Azad had said, even before he formed his political party. The venture looks well-planned considering that it was launched right after he rose to popularity during agitations against the CAA, NRC.

As far as the issue of Muslim votes in concerned, Azad seems to have captured the mood of Muslim voters. Mayawati, could not really woo the Muslims with her half-hearted criticism of the controversial laws. At the same time, Azad was loud, clear and visible, claiming to be with his Muslim “brothers” in the time of struggle. This can change the political dynamics of UP because of the sizeable Muslim population (18%) in the state.

The president of Azad Samaj Party, Chandrashekhar Azad has fielded 30 candidates in the Bihar Polls.

 

Though every theory and assumption depends on how Azad’s ASP performs in Bihar assembly polls. Since the party has had zero electoral experience till now, it will still be unjustified to expect it to do well in such a short span. However, there have been examples in Indian politics where people floated parties right before the polls and succeeded with flying colours. Azad’s task is much easier. He has to become a viable alternative for Mayawati’s already shrinking BSP. And that, for now, depends on how his party performs in Bihar polls.

 

 

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