Lucknow, April 10 (IANS) In an unexpected move, the Bhim Army has announced its support to the Congress that is bound to upset the Bahujan Samaj Party’s apple cart in western Uttar Pradesh where eight constituencies go to polls on Thursday in the first phase.
“We are going to support the Congress candidate in Saharanpur,” said Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar ‘Azad’ late on Tuesday. He refused to comment on other seats.
Besides Saharanpur, there is also Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddha Nagar that will vote on April 11.
It was in Saharanpur on Sunday that the BSP president had appealed to Muslims to vote en masse for the alliance and not to split their votes by opting for Congress.
Interestingly, in her rally, a large participation of the Bhim Army volunteers who carried placards with photographs of Chandra Shekhar, was seen and this is said to have upset the BSP president who later blasted her party workers.
This development is particularly disturbing for Mayawati since the Bhim Army chief also belongs to the Jatav sub caste among Dalits.
Mayawati, till now, has enjoyed complete supremacy over this caste to which she belongs. Chandra Shekhar has proudly put up a board saying “The Great Chamar” outside his village Dhadkauli in Saharanpur.
“The Bhim Army has played a very clever game. Chandra Shekhar kept praising the BSP but Mayawati kept snubbing him and dubbing him a BJP agent.
“He has now played the masterstroke by announcing support to the Congress at a time when there is no time left for any damage control. The BSP will now realise the strength of the Bhim Army,” said Kumar Gautam, a Bhim Army supporter.
The Congress had sensed the growing popularity of the Bhim Army and had been quietly cultivating Chandra Shekhar.
Imran Masood, the Congress candidate in Saharanpur, had been regularly visiting Chandra Shekhar while he was in jail for over 15 months.
More recently, when Chandra Shekhar was hospitalised, Congress General Secretary for eastern Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar had visited him in hospital.
That the BSP’s vote base has been steadily eroding after 2007 is evident from the fact that they have been steadily losing on reserved seats.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BSP failed to win even a single seat. In the 2017 Assembly polls, it was the BJP that won on 76 out of 86 Reserved Assembly seats.
The BSP’s vote share has also gone down from 30.43 per cent in 2007. In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the BSP vote share came down to 27.4 per cent.
In 2012 Assembly polls, the party’s vote percentage was 25.9 which came down to 20 per cent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The party vote share marginally improved in the 2017 assembly elections with 22.3 per cent.