Nearly a month after he announced to contest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi, Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar Azad Wednesday rescinded his decision, saying his outfit will support the SP-BSP-RLD alliance in the seat as the Dalit vote should remain intact to defeat the BJP. Azad's remarks come a few days after Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati termed him a BJP agent and accused him of dividing Dalit votes.
"I have decided not to contest from Varanasi because I do not want that my decision should strengthen the BJP or Modi in any way. We all want to defeat the BJP," he said at a press conference. Azad also said the Bhim Army will support the SP-BSP-RLD alliance in the Varanasi seat and asked it to field Satish Chandra Mishra, Mayawati's general secretary and Brahmin face of the BSP, from the constituency.
He said that if the SP-BSP-RLD alliance fielded Mishra, they will also be able to get some upper caste votes. Earlier, the Bhim Army chief had accused Mishra of misleading Mayawati and conspiring against the Dalit group.
On Mayawati's criticism of him, he said, "I was in jail for 16 months. While behind the bars, every day I would hope that 'behenji' would take our side, fight for us, but she did not utter a word. After getting released, I tried calling her up, but she never responded." "Our own people are calling us agents of the BJP, but I still want her to become our prime minister. I want to end this war of words with Mayawati once and for all. I want to make it clear that we did not form the Bhim Army at the behest of the BJP," Azad said.
At an event to mark Ambedkar Jayanti in Madhya Pradesh's Mhow on April 14, he had said that the Bhim Army, and not Mayawati, was the "real well-wisher" of Dalits. He had earlier attacked Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav for "giving promotion to officers who inflicted atrocities on Dalits".
"His father says in Parliament that he wants Modi to become prime minister again. They are agents of the BJP, not me. They call me an agent for questioning them. Yes, I am an agent of B R Ambedkar... If my own people were not in my way, I would have shown you (Akhilesh) that if we can vote you to power, we can pull you down too," he had said.
Chandrashekhar had announced at a rally in the national capital last month that he would contest against Modi from Varanasi and had welcomed the support of all parties, including the Congress, to take on the BJP. He had also sought the support of the SP and the BSP for his candidature, saying that the Dalit group would back their alliance in other seats.
The SP-BSP-RLD alliance is yet to declare its candidate against Modi in Varanasi. The Chandrashekhar-led group shot to limelight during the May 2017 clashes between Dalits and upper caste Thakurs in Saharanpur.
Chandrashekhar was arrested after the clashes. Though he was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court, the UP Police arrested him under the stringent National Security Act. He was released in September 2018 after 16 months in jail.
(With inputs from agencies.)