Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad, also known as ‘Ravan,’ launched his political outfit, Azad Samaj Party, on Sunday (March 15), the birth anniversary of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founder Kanshi Ram.
The Dalit leader also launched the party flag — a white band between two blue strips with Azad Samaj Party written in the middle. The party is soon expected to release its manifesto and launch a membership drive.
Before launching his party at an event held in Safai village in Noida, the 37-year-old Dalit leader made Kanshi Ram’s photograph his Twitter profile picture. Azad said the Bhim Army will run parallel to the party and continue to fight for Dalit rights and enroll new members.
Earlier in the day, Bhim Army members claimed police had locked the gates of the venue and pasted a notice: “Event cannot be held as large gatherings are prohibited in view of coronavirus”. The gate was, however, opened later.
Azad, who rose to prominence during clashes between Thakurs and Dalits in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur in May 2017, had filed nomination against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi during the 2019 general elections, but withdrew later.
In December 2019, the Bhim Army chief was arrested by the Delhi police, when violence erupted during an anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act march in old quarters of Delhi after his address to protesters from the stairs of Jama Masjid. He was granted bail by a Delhi court in January.
The Bhim Army had earlier said that it would contest the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls along with Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SSBP) as part of a larger alliance — the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha.
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The advocate-turned-politician has been critical of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, “for not doing enough for the Dalits”. Mayawati had earlier termed Azad a “BJP agent” and cautioned her supporters not to “fall prey to his designs”.
On Sunday, Mayawati launched a veiled attacked on the Bhim Army chief, saying people with vested interests are playing into the hands of rival political parties, and claimed they have nothing to do with BR Ambedkar and his movement.
“Formation of new parties or organisations will not benefit these people, but it will lead to success of the policy of divide and rule of the casteist parties…,” said Mayawati in a statement without naming Azad.
(With inputs from agencies)