Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad “Raavan” on Friday said he will contest the upcoming general elections from Varanasi, the constituency currently represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament, reported The Indian Express. Modi has not yet announced if he will contest from Varanasi again.
Azad was speaking at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, where his “Hunkar rally” culminated.
“I am going to Varanasi and I will need your help to defeat him,” Azad said at the rally, according to The Indian Express. “I am going there because he is anti-Dalit and he must know that he will be punished for it. He must know, in democracy, the public is everything.”
Azad reminded the gathering of various incidents of caste violence and asked people to remember them while casting their votes. “A tyrant is a tyrant, he can never be your well-wisher,” Azad said, according to ANI. “That’s why I say we will repeat Bhima Koregaon. The need has not arisen yet, but the day the country’s Constitution is under threat, we will repeat Bhima Koregaon.”
He said that the organisation will field a candidate against Union minister Smriti Irani and “wherever there’s need of a strong nominee against the BJP”, PTI reported.
The Bhim Army chief also appeared to rule out working with the Congress and said that the party had not done anything for Dalits in the last 70 years. “The BJP and the Congress are two sides of the same coin,” he said.
The Dalit rights activist had flagged off the rally in Meerut on Sunday. Azad had planned overnight stays in Muzaffarnagar and Ghaziabad, among other places, as well as a number of road shows and workers’ meetings. However, the Uttar Pradesh police took him and his supporters into custody on Tuesday after they allegedly violated the Model Code of Conduct by using more than a stipulated number of motorcycles in a political rally in Saharanpur district. Azad later fell ill and was admitted to a hospital in Meerut.
Organisers had said the rally in Muzaffarnagar was cancelled after his detention but the Delhi leg would be held as scheduled. Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra met Azad in the hospital on Wednesday.
Azad told ABP News in hospital that his only goal is to ensure the defeat of Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh. He had said that if the prime minister contests the polls from Varanasi, he would throw his hat in the ring too.
The Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19, and the results declared on May 23. The election in Varanasi constituency will be held on the last day, May 19.
The Bhim Army is a Dalit rights organisation active in western Uttar Pradesh. Azad had first risen to prominence when he was arrested in connection with caste violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur in 2017, after which he was booked under the National Security Act. He was released in September 2018.