‘I raise my voice for all’: Chandra Shekhar Azad

“Right now, the country is in the hands of a dictator,” says the founder of the Bhim Army and the Azad Samaj Party.

Published : Apr 28, 2024 16:49 IST - 6 MINS READ

Azad feels that the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party have become irrelevant in the fight against the BJP.

Azad feels that the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party have become irrelevant in the fight against the BJP. | Photo Credit: By Special Arrangement

Chandra Shekhar Azad, the 38-year-old founder of the Azad Samaj Party (Kanshi Ram), has emerged as a rising figure in Uttar Pradesh’s Dalit political landscape, challenging the dominance of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati. Azad co-founded the Bhim Army, an organisation that works for the empowerment of Dalits, in 2015. Following unsuccessful talks with the INDIA bloc, he is contesting on his party ticket from Nagina in Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor district, which went to the polls on April 19.

Azad’s opponents are the Samajwadi Party’s (SP) Manoj Kumar, a retired additional judge; the BSP’s Surendra Pal Singh; and the BJP’s Om Kumar, a three-time MLA from the region. In 2019, the BSP, then in an alliance with the SP, won this reserved seat. With his candidature, Azad hopes to unite marginalised communities and challenge the established party dynamics in Uttar Pradesh. Excerpts from Azad’s interview to Frontline:

Why did an all-opposition alliance in Uttar Pradesh, including the BSP, not happen?

I understand that every party has its own goals and priorities. If it were up to me, I would have united everyone to fight the election together. Unfortunately, the established parties prioritise their own interests over the welfare of the people, leading to severe consequences for voters. People want to oust the BJP, but these parties that claim to oppose the BJP fail to unite, causing the anti-BJP vote to fragment and benefit the BJP.

Do you think you can challenge the BSP’s dominance over the Dalit vote?

My desire is not to challenge any party but to serve the people. The SCs, STs, Backward Classes, Muslims and other minorities, women, youth, farmers, the unemployed… my politics is for all of them. I am not challenging anyone, but I am positive that because of my work, I will be able to win the hearts of people. People should be given their fundamental rights; unemployed people should find opportunities; rising prices should be a concern; more educational institutions should come up. In rural areas, genius should be recognised; children should be given opportunities in sports, and loans made easily available for empowering children from rural backgrounds.

Why did the BSP not win a single seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha election in Uttar Pradesh, which has a nearly 20 per cent Dalit population?

I understand that people have voted for the SP and the BSP for long in UP. But they have become irrelevant in the fight against the BJP. We should understand that the public feels cheated by them.

I want to tap into the aspirations and hopes of the people. We have been able to create a movement. Now, we are training them in politics too. In the coming times, the Azad Samaj Party will emerge as a political vehicle for the public that wants to defeat the BJP.

“I want to tap into the aspirations and hopes of the people. We have been able to create a movement. Now, we are training them in politics too. In the coming times, the Azad Samaj Party will emerge as a political vehicle for the public that wants to defeat the BJP.”

Also Read | ‘There is an undercurrent against Modi’: Jignesh Mevani

Why is there no assertion of Dalits in Punjab where they form more than 30 per cent of the population?

In Punjab, because of farming and a few other factors, Dalits are better off than in States like UP, where they live in dire poverty. People from Punjab are also employed in foreign countries. It is those who are really suffering, like Dalits in UP, who are speaking up.

What scope do you see for a new entrant in Dalit politics?

I believe that politics is not easy. It doesn’t matter what you have studied. Coming into politics is truly difficult. Of course, for those who have been born into political families, it is easy. Because of such people, politics is overcrowded, and those who want to really work for the people hardly get opportunities. We created our student federation Bhim Army to create more leaders. It is a social movement which has reading circles. The aim is to provide exposure to those students who do not have it so that more and more political leaders are made. We have trained many young men in different States, and if given the opportunity, they will become important figures in their respective States. Politics should be done with the best sentiment for the common public. Ambedkar once said that hero worship is okay in religion but not in politics. I believe in it. In our organisations, we try to keep it as decentralised as possible. I am not a hero. Everyone is a hero.

What happened to the alliance talks between you and Akhilesh Yadav?

I had serious talks with the Congress, SP, NCP, and AAP regarding an alliance, but it seems as if the established parties of UP had decided that they wanted to stop me. I was fighting to defeat the BJP; it seemed that the INDIA bloc parties were fighting to defeat Chandra Shekhar Azad. All parties were against me; perhaps I am a threat to them.

Is a Dalit-Muslim alliance possible at the level of voters or is this an utopian idea?

Dalits, Muslims, Pal, Valmiki, Prajapati, Jat, Sikh, Tyagi, Jain… they have all supported me in the campaign. The people in Nagina seem to be disillusioned with the SP, BSP, and Congress. I raise my voice for all without thinking about their caste or religion. People in Nagina, especially the Dalit and Muslim communities, have shown their faith in me by voting for me. I want to raise important issues inside and outside Parliament. In Nagina, there are many local issues. There should be an industrial area in Nagina as there is potential for it. It will also create employment opportunities for people. One of the reasons there was a low polling percentage in the election is because so many people have migrated from their homes in search of jobs. They can’t leave work, miss their salaries, and come to vote. This is what I want to change. I want to give them employment here. If there are employment opportunities available locally, then people will not have to look for work outside their homes.

There are no quality educational institutions in the region, no hospitals. I have seen several incidents where people have lost their lives because they could not reach a hospital in time. Something like the AIIMS is needed here. In rural areas, there is no dearth of talent. Those with political connections or parental influence in cities can get opportunities, and be successful in life. I want to give the same opportunities to students from rural backgrounds so that they can make their hometowns proud, and make an identity for themselves. We need better coaching classes, better education in government schools.

Also Read | ‘It’s Modi vs the masses in 2024’: Prakash Ambedkar

Why have sections of Dalits voted for the BJP?

Religion is a personal choice. For Dalits, it is about representation and equal opportunities. We aim to connect with those who have embraced Hindutva ideology through awareness and engagement. People need to realise the value of their vote. The BJP’s tactics of using government agencies to intimidate the opposition must be countered.

Babasaheb Ambedkar wrote about the annihilation of caste. Do you see it happening in the near future in India?

Society must be casteless. But that will not happen until those who have power follow this. Right now, the country is in the hands of a dictator. But better times will come. 

More stories from this issue

+ SEE all Stories
Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment