Other States

Bulandshahr Sadar bypoll could signal a socio-political realignment in U.P.

Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad. File  

At Akbarpur Raina village in Gulaothi block of Bulandshahr, Chanderpal Singh Jatav is unequivocal in his assessment of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati. She should “retire”, he says, and make way for Chandrashekhar Azad as he could “protect Dalit pride” as she once did.

He had lost his son in a freak accident and no political party could get him compensation. Now, he has pinned his hope on the Azad Samaj Party because he had seen its leader hitting the road for Dalit causes, including in the latest Hathras case, where a Dalit girl was killed and allegedly gang-raped by four upper caste men.

With the Azad Samaj Party jumping into the electoral politics of Uttar Pradesh, in the patron-client pattern of politics in north India, the upcoming bypoll for Bulandshahr Sadar seat is presenting possibilities of a socio-political realignment in the State.

In Mr. Singh’s outer courtyard, Mahendra Singh, who once used to be Mayawati’s pointsman in west U.P. and Delhi, is selling Azad Samaj Party to a group of Jatavs. Invoking Bhimrao Ambedkar, he says, political democracy without social democracy is meaningless. “She became U.P.’s Chief Minister four times. Did any Dalit get a licence or permit?” he asks. He reminds his listeners of the time under BSP founder Kanshiram when the party was flourishing in four States. “Now it has reduced to one. Who would take the responsibility?” he asks.

 

He admits the churning would take time. “This bypoll is about sending a message that the future of the Bahujan Samaj (referring to Muslims and Dalits) is with the Azad Samaj Party as Behenji (Mayawati) has made it amply clear that she won’t be part of any coalition that would be formed to take on the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) in 2022. These people fear that from 18, the BSP might come down to eight. We want Azad to be the face of the coalition against the BJP,” he asserts.

In bucolic Bulandshahr, pride is what every political party is keen on preserving in the by-poll for the Sadar seat. The response to the newly promulgated farm laws is what one went looking for, but on the ground, farmers, particularly Jats, who own large tracts of land in the area, are more concerned about the lathi charge that their leader Jayant Chaudhary received in Hathras when he went to meet the family of the victim.

“Lathi is something we wield, how can we be at the wrong end of it?” asks Virendra Singh, an aged farmer leader at the camp office of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). Old-timers in “farmer politics” advise the RLD vice president, who likes to present the educated face of farmers, to hit the street more often. They tell him to take a leaf out of Chandrashekhar Azad’s book.

They have had memories of the early 1990s when, in Gulaothi, Mayawati symbolically talked of signs of upper caste nails on the Dalit woman’s body. “Her speeches stoked fire that would burn anything that came in her way. Today, Azad tries to create the same spell,” says a local RLD leader working closely with the Samajwadi Party (SP)-RLD candidate Praveen Kumar Singh.

While at the SP-RLD meeting in Bhainsoli-Sharifpur village, the BSP is described as the “BJP ki beti” (daughter of the BJP) for being afraid of Central agencies and not being able to stand up for Muslims during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)-National Register for Citizens (NRC) protests, at the BSP’s camp office in Upper Court area, party workers question the source of Azad’s funding.

 

“Both ASP (Ambedkar Samaj Party) and AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen) are being propelled by the BJP to cut into the BSP vote,” says Prem Pal Singh, president of the Shikarpur Assembly segment of the party in the district. Finding it hard to defend their supremo’s absence from the rough and tumble of politics, BSP party workers maintain that Ms. Mayawati is still the glue that could hold the Jatavs and Muslims together. “After the Hathras case, even the Valmikis will come into our fold as they have realised who shoved brooms in the hands of those who held pens in the Ramayana period (in a reference to the author of the epic),” says Mr. Singh.

Her absence from Hathras is described as a way to keep herself away from physical harm. “Sab pit rahe hain (everybody is getting beaten up),” says Mohd Lukman, a meat businessman. “And the media is not reporting ‘our stories’,” he adds.

The fear is palpable at the BSP camp office. “If a BJP worker goes to a police station and says that this Muslim boy was staring at us, an FIR is lodged in no time,” claims Mr. Lukman. “We are being threatened with the NSA (National Security Act) and the Gangster Act but if we go with a complaint, we get a lesson in social amity from the SHO (Station House Officer),” he adds.

But Mr. Singh keeps reminding the workers not to share stories of fear with the media. “It gives strength to the BJP’s narrative,” he muses. And, perhaps, Mr. Azad’s as well.

Social activist Zaheeruddin, who has been working in the region for a long-time, underlines that both the BSP and ASP have fielded Muslim candidates who have the image of a “bahubali” (strongman) in the area. “Both have made money through questionable means but the locals are in awe of them. If we find fault in others, we have to look within as well. In the long run, only a mohazaab (well-behaved) politician who has the support of both Hindus and Muslims could take on the BJP,” he says.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 11:14:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bulandshahr-sadar-by-poll-could-signal-a-socio-political-realignment-in-up/article32936600.ece

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