SAHARANPUR(UP): Five years after Chandrashekhar Azad, a young firebrand Dalit leader, announced his arrival in the political theatre of Uttar Pradesh as ‘The Great Chamar’, the buzz around his party — Azad Samaj Party — and the organisation — Bhim Army — seems to have fizzled out.
The fight for political dominance in this region, which has a sizeable presence of SC voters, is a two-way contest between BSP and BJP.
Hundreds of posters of Azad Samaj Party (ASP), bearing photos of the party’s candidate and of Azad, are visible across Ghadkoli village of Saharanpur Dehat, which goes to polls on February 14.
This was the same village at whose entrance in 2017 Azad had put up a signboard declaring himself as ‘The Great Chamar’. Following this, violence had erupted in the village between upper castes and SC youth and Azad was jailed for over a year.
This incident had propelled him as a political leader who is unafraid of taking on the upper caste hegemony. However, five years later, after Azad founded his own party, Dalit villagers in Ghadkoli feel that politics and activism are two different things.
By and large, the Dalit voters here claim that Mayawati is their true political representative. Shopkeeper Nivesh Kumar, 54, says, “Azad is our boy but he should not have got into politics against Mayawati. We are with her.”
Even those who remained loyal to Azad throughout his activism journey have switched their political allegiance to BSP supremo.
Tinku Gautam, who was among the group of boys who were jailed with Azad in 2017 and has 28 cases against him in connection with the incident, echoes Nivesh’s sentiments, “We are with Azad, but our votes are for Behenji as it is she who has stood for the rights of Dalits. We do not want votes to be split.”
In the Scheduled Caste-dominated Badheri Ghoghu village, concern over votes splitting due to ASP’s entry to politics is a major source of concern for a lot of voters.
Jitendra Kumar, 41, says, “We are supporting Mayawati as the fight is between BSP and BJP. He should have also ensured that Dalit votes do not get split.” Saharanpur has seven constituencies and the ASP is fighting on all but one seat.
At Azad’s home, his mother Kamlesh and elder brother Bhagat Singh are hopeful about the new party’s entrance into politics.
“Azad and other people in his party have worked very hard for the rights of people and this will show in the election,” Singh said.
While many Dalit voters in the district spoke in support of BSP, there were some who spoke favourably of BJP.