After a dismal showing at the hustings and a rebellion in the rank and file of the BSP, the emergence of the Dalit outfit Bheem Army at the national level has compounded problems for party chief Mayawati. Even before the BSP could have come to terms with being relegated to a poor third, managing merely 19 seats (in the 403-member UP Assembly), 61 down from 2012, it is faced with a new challenge in the form of the Bheem Army which has taken the winds out of its sails following Saharanpur caste clashes.
The organisation of Dalit youths across seven states in northern India, was founded by a young lawyer Chandrashekhar two years ago in Saharanpur, and shot into prominence during the clashes. He belongs to Chhutmalpur village adjoining Shabbirpur, the epicentre of recent troubles.
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Though the mission of the Bheem Army was to educate the community’s children free of cost, with their first school coming up two years ago at Saharanpur’s Bhado village, it came into limelight in April when an Ambedkar Jayanti procession was stopped by Rajputs.
The rise of the Bheem Army made BSP chief all the more worried as it succeeded in mobilising Dalits in western UP, the stronghold of BSP.
Bheem Army, with its show of strength by organising an impressive protest in the national capital last Sunday over Saharanpur incidents, literally knocked at the doors of national politics.
Chandrashekhar, despite being wanted for his alleged involvement in the clashes between the police and the protesters on May 9, made an appearance with his supporters in New Delhi.
The BSP supremo, who has stated time and again that members of her samaj consider her as their “goddess”, could ill afford any political outfit or person to unseat her from this position of strength which is so essential for her to spring back to power in Uttar Pradesh, political observers feel.
By visiting Saharanpur, Mayawati also plans to counter the Bheem Army by mobilising party cadre in the region.
Though Mayawati had always been vocal whenever there had been any incident of atrocity on Dalits, be it in the state or at the national level while being in power or outside, it is for the first time in years barring 2014 when she moved out this Tuesday to meet the victims herself, driving down to trouble-ridden Shabbirpur village in Saharanpur.
While she claims that she has always discouraged politicians visiting troubled area, she chose to visit Saharanpur quite late when the fight of the Dalits have been taken up by Bheem Army.
Clashes had started in Shabbirpur on May 5 after Dalits refused to allow a procession by Thakurs to mark the birth anniversary of Rajput king Maharana Pratap and it is alleged that to avenge the death of a youth of their community, Thakurs had set the houses of Dalits on fire.
Even when in power (2007-12), Mayawati did not move out to meet Dalit victims in cases of atrocities on them and had instead sent senior leaders to give her report.
She visited Shabbirpur and blamed the BJP and RSS for the trouble but her visit triggered a fresh round of violence leaving a man dead after he received gunshot injuries and 20 others injured.
Political observers feel that the coming days will see a more active Mayawati asserting herself for regaining lost ground, first for the upcoming urban body elections and later for the battle of the ballots in 2019 for Lok Sabha.
Besides raising the issue of atrocities on Dalits in Parliament, the BSP could also hold rallies, dharnas and demonstrations over such issues.
She will not let go any opportunity of making her constituency realise that she had been leading their fight at every level.
In 2014, Mayawati went to Badaun after two cousin sisters were found hanging dead from a tree in Katra Shahadatganj during the Akhilesh Yadav government, to find out only later that the victims were not Dalits and their family members were prime suspects in what is being investigated as a case of “honour killing”.
Though she had been busy adjusting caste and communal equations in ticket allocation for the polls she had little realised that BJP, which has been all out wooing her Dalit votebank would be able to pull the rug from under her feet, making a clean sweep in areas considered BSP stronghold.
Ever since her party’s near rout in the recent Assembly elections, Mayawati has been trying hard to blame it on “faulty” EVMs.