In a major blow to the BSP-SP-RLD 'Gathbandhan' alliance in Uttar Pradesh, the Bhim Army has appealed to members of the Dalit community to vote for Congress' Saharanpur Lok Sabha candidate Imran Masood, following BSP chief Mayawati's comment calling Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar Azad a "BJP agent".
The Bhim Army, which has a considerable following in western Uttar Pradesh and has been trying to mobilise the Dalits community in the state, has announced its decision to support Congress' candidate Masood who had come into the limelight during the 2014 general elections for his controversial 'boti-boti' remarks against the BJP's then PM candidate, Narendra Modi.
The Bahujan Samaj Party supremo, Mayawati, in the first week of April, described Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar Azad as a "BJP agent" and accused him of trying to divide Dalit votes. Mayawati had said:
“Small Dalit and Other Backward Classes organisations are formed before elections to damage the BSP and the movement of Babasaheb Ambedkar. The big political parties do this for their own selfish reasons. The members of these communities should be alert against such designs.”
She added: “It’s the BJP that is fielding Bhim Army convener Chandrashekhar from the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat (as a dummy candidate) to divide the BSP’s Dalit votes.”
In response to her remark, Chandrashekhar had said SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh were "agents of the BJP" as they "allowed atrocities on Dalits"
Following Mayawati's remarks, a Bhim Army leader also alleged that BSP-SP activists manhandled a number of Dalits carrying pictures of Chandrashekhar and tore their posters in the rally in Deoband, Uttar Pradesh.
Congress general secretary for East Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had met Chandrashekhar at a Meerut hospital last month, which was seen as a Dalit outreach move of the party. While the BSP-SP-RLD alliance has fielded Faizul Rehman from the seat, the BJP has nominated its sitting MP Raghav Lakhanpal.
Saharanpur goes to polls in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections on April 11 while the state goes on polls on all three phases.
(With PTI inputs)