UP Assembly elections: Why Yogi Adityanath will keep a close eye on Bhim Army’s Chandrashekhar Azad

The Dalit youth leader has said that he will be contesting the polls from Gorakhpur, the same seat as the UP chief minister and warned that 1971 history would repeat itself

FP Staff January 28, 2022 13:10:06 IST
UP Assembly elections: Why Yogi Adityanath will keep a close eye on Bhim Army’s Chandrashekhar Azad

File image of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad. AFP

The Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections are really heating up and one of the contests that will be closely watched will be that of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad.

A week ago, Chandrashekhar Azad of the Azad Samaj Party, had announced that he would be contesting the UP polls from Gorakhpur — the turf of the UP chief minister.

UP Assembly elections Why Yogi Adityanath will keep a close eye on Bhim Armys Chandrashekhar Azad

Let’s take a look at the Bhim Army chief and what his foray into electoral polls means.

Bhim army chief

This will be Chandrashekhar Azad’s first election.

The 34-year-old had famously backtracked after announcing in 2019 that he would contest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He later explained that since he had no party at the time, it was best to support Mayawati's party and the Congress.

Now that he has one, he would take on Yogi Adityanath, he had said.

Azad, who is popularly called "Ravan", formed the Bhim Army — an Ambedkarite organisation — in 2015. It started to fight oppression in a college where Dalit boys faced discrimination. As years moved on, the Bhim Army has become a force to be reckoned with.

Asked what his purpose is, he says that he wants to emancipate fellow bahujans and believes good-structured education is the only way to do so. His organisation helps educate minorities in western Uttar Pradesh and cultivate in them a political passion to pursue rights and literacy like Ambedkar envisioned in the Constitution.

UP Assembly elections Why Yogi Adityanath will keep a close eye on Bhim Armys Chandrashekhar Azad

File image of Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad holds a copy of the Indian Constitution at Jama Masjid in New Delhi. PTI

Azad and the Bhim Army also “spearheaded a campaign for justice” in the case of the fatal gang-rape of a 19-year old Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras.

He also became one of the most popular faces in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in 2020.

He became an overnight topic of discussion in 2020 when cameras caught him standing outside the Jama Masjid in Delhi with a copy of the Constitution in one hand. Surrounded by supporters as well as protesters, Azad also read the preamble to the Constitution.

Foray into politics

Azad formed the Azad Samaj Party in 2020 and it will make its debut in Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming Assembly election.

Chandrashekhar Azad recently declared that his party would not tie-up with the Samajwadi Party of Akhilesh Yadav after their seat share talks collapsed.

He declared that he felt cheated by the Samajwadi Party and that it had reneged on its promise to offer his party 25 seats to contest.

Akhilesh Yadav said he would try to ensure that two seats were set aside for Azad's party but he was told the Bhim Army chief was no longer interested.

UP Assembly elections Why Yogi Adityanath will keep a close eye on Bhim Armys Chandrashekhar Azad

Popularly called "Ravan", he formed the Azad Samaj Party in 2020 and will contest the polls for the first time. Image Courtesy: Chandrashekhar Azad/Facebook

Challenging Yogi

Azad says he’s confident of taking on Yogi Adityanath.

News agency PTI quoted him as saying, "When people can make Prime Minister Narendra Modi an MP despite not being from the state, I at least belong to Uttar Pradesh."

"I will defeat him {Adityanath}, we need organisational strength for it and we have that. Their failures are plenty... inflation, COVID handling, unemployment recruitment scams, law and order and women's security, this government has failed on all counts," he said.

There was talk of Adityanath fighting from Ayodhya but this was later "changed" to Gorakhpur Urban. He knew Chandra Shekhar Azad will contest against him so he returned to a so-called "safe seat", the ASP chief said.

"If Adityanath had done good work why would he return to Gorakhpur?"

"People of Gorakhpur are not afraid of him nor will they abide by his 'Tughlaqi farmans'. People of Gorakhpur will repeat the history of 1971 when they defeated a sitting CM," he said.

In an effort to woo voters, Azad’s followers have been organising "nukkad sabhas" in every ward of the Gorakhpur Urban constituency.

Azad Samaj Party core committee member Mohammad Aquib told PTI, "Our party is forming groups of the youth, who will do 'nukkad sabhas' in the strength of four to five persons to reach out to voters in every ward of the constituency."

He claimed their poll campaign on social media has already gained pace.

"Drawing inspiration from Kanshi Ram, we have formed our 'sena' (army) connecting with people in every ward of the Gorakhpur Urban constituency," he said.

What’s the 1971 story?

For those wondering, what the 1971 history that Azad is referring to, it’s when a chief minister of Uttar Pradesh lost elections from the Assembly constituency.

Congress-O leader Tribhuvan Narain Singh was from Varanasi and took oath as chief minister in October 1970 without being a member of state legislatures.

He contested a bypoll from the seat of Maniram in Gorakhpur in 1971 but lost the contest and was forced to resign.

With inputs from agencies

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