Days after announcing his decision to challenge Prime Minister Modi in Varanasi, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad says his sole aim is to defeat the BJP in this election. In an interview with Preetha Nair, Azad also scotched rumours of an alliance with Congress. Excerpts:
What’s behind your decision to take on Modi in Varanasi?
Modi is anti-Dalit, his government’s policies have ruined the country. I’ll make sure he’s not re-elected to the Lok Sabha. I have requested the SP-BSP-RLD grand alliance to support me in Varanasi to defeat the PM and send him back to Gujarat. We’ve taken a pledge to defeat the BJP.
But you’d said the Bhim Army wouldn’t be in the fray….
During our rally in Meerut, we were arrested though we had permission…our members were beaten up and detained. If Modi returns to power, the Bahujan will be at the receiving end. It will sound a death-knell for all things constitutional. Our rights will be curtailed. Dalits will teach him a lesson. Uttar Pradesh is a sacred land. We urge all parties to support us.
Priyanka Gandhi’s meeting with you has fuelled speculation….
Priyanka Gandhi visited me in hospital out of concern and pledged her support in our fight against Modi. I didn’t have any prior knowledge of her visit. We didn’t discuss politics.
What if Congress approaches you?
I won’t ally with the Congress at any cost. My primary aim is to defeat the BJP…we’ll support parties fighting them. I’m working towards fulfilling Ambedkar’s vision. My aim is to empower the Bahujan.
But if you contest, won’t it become tri-cornered and benefit BJP?
I will try sort it out with Mayawatiji. If they support us in Varanasi, we can return the support in 79 seats. If they wish to field strong candidates like Mayawati, Akhilesh or Mulayam to challenge Modi in Varanasi, I’m ready to support that. Our path is the same, we should go together. We will lend support in Bihar and Maharashtra also.
Have you consulted Mayawati on this?
Not yet. Hope she agrees. I am not waiting for anyone’s invitation.
Mayawati has often denied any association with you and calls you a B-team of the BJP.
That’s her personal opinion. Earlier people used to say I’m a BJP agent. After Priyanka’s visit, they call me a Congress agent. By challenging Modi, I have proved I am anti-BJP.
Is BSP doing enough for Dalits?
I haven’t seen BSP do enough in the last five years. I was jailed in Sabirpur along with 40 people—no leader came forward to help us get bail. No leader visited the victims of the April 2 violence.
What's the status of Dalits under this government?
There’s large-scale oppression, atrocities have increased. They diluted the SC/ST Act. When Dalits called a strike, many were killed. Hundreds are in jail.
And the 10 per cent quota for elite castes?
It’s a mockery of the Constitution, it clearly says reservation should be based on social backwardness. It’s a political move to appease the elite castes. If we come to power, we will scrap it.
The BJP claims it’s pro-Dalit…
After I announced my decision, the PM started washing the feet of sanitation workers. Kanshi Ram once said that if caste hegemony is threatened, they will go to any extent to appease….