Chandrashekhar Azad, chief of the Dalit-led Bhim Army, announced on Friday that he would contest the general elections from Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency.

Azad made the announcement at a rally in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar to mark the 85th birth anniversary of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founder, Kanshi Ram.

“If I had to be an MP, I could have contested from any seat reserved for candidates of the Scheduled Castes. I am here not to be a politician but to be the son of the Dalit community… Modiji is anti-Dalit. I am going to Varanasi [to contest elections]. I need your support in defeating him,” said Azad, in his first such rally after his meeting with Congress’s eastern Uttar Pradesh in-charge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who visited him at a Meerut hospital earlier this week.

The gathering was attended by hundreds of people from across the National Capital Region and parts of western UP, where the Bhim Army is an influential outfit.

Varanasi, where the PM defeated his nearest rival, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, by more than 337,000 votes in 2014, is in eastern UP and falls outside the Bhim Army’s sphere of influence. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not named its candidate for Varanasi yet.

Though the discussion between Priyanka Gandhi and Azad – he took ill after he was detained for alleged violation of the model code of conduct — was not made public, it appeared to have upset a section of the Bhim Army, which has claimed to be a non-political outfit.

“A large number of Dalits are looking at it [Azad’s meeting with Gandhi] like an alliance with Congress and they are unhappy about it… this can eventually create a rift within the Bhim Army,” said a prominent leader of the group.

First Published:
Mar 16, 2019 07:16 IST

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