Voters’ have differing opinions on his impact against the U.P. CM
The Azad Samaj Party is mobilising the youth to hold nukkad sabhas in every ward of the Gorakhpur Urban constituency, from where its chief Chandrashekhar Azad is set to contest against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls.
The party said it has drawn inspiration from Dalit icon Kanshi Ram, a claim contested by a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader, who termed it a “marketing” gimmick.
Mr. Azad, who is popularly called “Ravan” and had founded the Bhim Army, was the first known politician to throw his hat in the ring against Mr. Adityanath.
No other party has declared their candidate on this high-profile seat, where voting will be held in the sixth phase of the Assembly polls on March 3.
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.
Attacking Mr. Azad’s party for drawing its election strategy in the name of the Dalit icon, BSP’s chief sector official in Gorakhpur, Suresh Kumar Gautam, said ,”Everybody is aware of chaal and charitra (persona) of Chandrashekhar Azad. Nobody can fulfil his (Kanshi Ram) mission by using his name.” “Many people like Mr. Azad talk about achieving the Dalits icon’s mission. In fact, they are doing this for their marketing. Only the BSP is capable of carrying forward the mission of Kanshi Ramji,” Mr. Gautam said.
The 36-year-old Mr. Azad has emerged as a prominent Dalit face. He figured in Time Magazine top 100 emerging leaders.
Born in U.P.’s Saharanpur district, Mr. Azad had launched the Bhim Army in 2014 to start the struggle for the welfare of the Dalits.
Later, Mr. Azad formed the Azad Samaj Party, a political front of the Bhim army.
The party had fielded its candidate for the first time in the bypolls to the Bulandshahr Sadar seat in 2020.
Its nominee Mohd Yameen lost but secured 13,000 votes.
Mr. Azad had earlier made efforts for a tie-up with the Samajwadi Party.
But when the things did not materialise, he decided to go alone.
Mr. Azad declared himself a candidate from Gorakhpur Urban seat to take on Adityanath.
“This election will be a fight between dhan tantra (money power) and jan tantra (people’s power). Our election will be fought by the common man as this battle of ballots is against feudal thinking,” Mr. Aquib said, adding his party has drawn a strategy to mobilise support of SCs, backwards, minorities and other deprived sections.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s national council member Sant Raj Yadav dismissed Mr. Azad’s challenge.
“People like Mr. Azad will have no impact against Yogiji. People here even do not know him (Mr. Azad),” Mr. Yadav, who lives in Gorakhpur, said.
Gorakhpur Urban constituency has around 4.5 lakh voters, of which around 75,000 belong to backward castes and around 50,000 to the SC community.
Muslims electors are around 40,000.
Retired teacher Sahdeo Ram said, “Azad has given a new direction to younger generation of the Dalits and will effectively challenge Yogi’s kamandal (communal appeal).” Santosh Singh of Mohaddipur differs.
“No equation is going to work against Yogiji as he has worked for everybody and done development in the area,” he said.
He said the Gorakhpeeth headed by Mr. Adityanath was the first to launch a campaign against untouchability.
His guru Mahant Avaidyanath had started the tradition of having meal at Dalits’ homes.
Mr. Adiyanath had meal at the home of a Dalit, Amrit Lal Bharti, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti recently.
SP president Akhilesh Yadav had taken a jibe at this saying, “He ate khichdi half-heartedly.” Gopal Bharti, a student of Gorakhpur University who is working for Mr. Azad, said people are inspired by his plans, including providing jobs in the private sector for the uplift of the Dalits.
BJP’s Radha Mohan Das Agarwal has been winning elections from Gorakhpur Urban seat continuously since 2002. But this time he has made way for Mr. Adityanath.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, Mr. Agarwal had defeated SP-Congress joint candidate Rana Rahul Singh by around 61,000 votes. BSP’s Janardan Chaudhary had stood third with 24,297 votes on the seat.