A 34-Year-Old From India’s Lowest Class Challenges Modi’s Party

Cover Photo: Chandrashekhar Azad  PHOTOGRAPHER: MAYANK MAKHIJA/ NURPHOTO/AP PHOTO

 

BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

26 August 2021

Alanksha Singh

 

Activist Chandrashekhar Azad aims to erode support for the ruling BJP in the critical state of Uttar Pradesh.

 

Although caste discrimination is illegal in India, with growing demand for Caste Census by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and by his state's leader of the Opposition Tajashwi Yadav, and also increasing chorus for Dalit Bishops, it appears the leader of Dalits' Bhim Army, Activist Chandrashekhar Azad has the potential to take the wind out of the sail of Namo & Co. However, all said and done, Reservation based on castes, will be the undoing of India. The sooner social scientists and social workers devise some other ways, than Reservation, to uplift the underprivileged, the better it will be to build a strong India and stop her from being fragmented on casteist lines. Isaac Gomes, Associate Editor, Church Citizens' Voice.

  

“I’d seen so much corruption in politics when I was younger, I didn’t want to become a politician,” says Chandrashekhar Azad. “But I knew I wanted to go into activism.” He ended up doing both. Azad, 34, is a well-known activist for the rights of Dalits, a group long oppressed under the Indian caste system, and other marginalized groups. Last year he formally moved into politics, founding the Aazad Samaj Party (ASP), which loosely translates to the Free Society Party. He says the party next year will contest all 403 seats in the assembly of his home state of Uttar Pradesh, ruled by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.

Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state, with as many people as the United Kingdom, Germany, and France combined. Its chief minister, Hindu monk-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath, is a close ally of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and is seen as a candidate to succeed him. With his campaign, Azad, a Dalit and a trained lawyer, is attempting to undercut the BJP’s power as Modi’s handling of the pandemic threatens to erode the party’s political support. It’s not Azad’s first swipe at Modi: In 2019 he said he would challenge the prime minister for his seat in Parliament before withdrawing, out of concern, he said, about splitting the Dalit vote.

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