What you should know about Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan
Why is a man with not even a registered political party of his own so relevant in India’s politically most crucial state?
The meeting of Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi with Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad in a Meerut hospital where he is admitted is creating a lot of buzz. But what is the political significance of this meeting? Why is a man with not even a registered political party of his own so relevant in India’s politically most crucial state?
To know these answers, we need to know more about Chandrashekhar Azad or Ravan, as he refers to himself.
Chandrashekhar Azad, 32, runs an outfit called Bhim Army which claims to work for the Dalits and other weaker sections of the society. He shot to fame when caste-related riots broke out in the sensitive district of Saharanpur in May 2017.
Azad was accused of instigating the violence and 24 FIRs were registered against him by the local police. He was arrested in June 2017 and was kept in jail under the controversial National Security Act (NSA) for more than a year.
When he was finally released in September 2018, many saw this as a strategy of the BJP government to challenge BSP dominance in Uttar Pradesh.
Political significance of Chandrashekhar Azad
Many see Azad as a leader who can dent Mayawati’s Dalit vote bank. The BSP supremo has enjoyed unchallenged dominance among Dalits in Uttar Pradesh since the 1990s. Her failure to build any leader of equal stature in the state might cost her.
Also, Mayawati who is 65 now, might fail to capture the imagination of young Dalit voters. This is where Azad comes into the picture. He is 32, fiery and takes the administration head-on. Unlike Mayawati, he has no baggage and is starting his political career from the clean slate.
This also explains Mayawati’s discomfort with the Bhim Army. When Azad was kept in the jail under NSA for more than a year, she kept mum. And when he referred to her as his ‘Bua’, Mayawati snubbed him and said that this is part of the BJP’s plan.
Azad hails from Western Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur; a place from where Bhim Army drives its base and is home to sizeable numbers of Dalits and Muslims. This consolidation is necessary for Mayawati to be politically relevant in the state, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
Mayawati has clearly ruled out on any possibility of an alliance with the Congress anywhere in the country. Hence, the meeting between Priyanka Gandhi and Chandrashekhar Azad can also be read as Congress’ way of getting back at her.
Azad has also made it clear that he will contest against the Prime Minister from Varanasi. This also takes away the spotlight from the grand alliance that is trying to challenge the BJP in a state where it won more than 70 seats in 2014.