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The Uphill Battle to Rejuvenate the Bahujan Samaj Party: Aakash Anand’s Daunting Task

Asad Rizvi, TwoCircles.net

Lucknow: Rejuvenating the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will be a formidable challenge for Aakash Anand. Despite his reinstatement as the national coordinator of the BSP, his earlier removal from this position during the general elections significantly undermined his credibility, feel those close to the party.

BSP supremo has once again appointed her nephew Anand as her successor and party coordinator. Now, the responsibility of revitalizing the party falls squarely on his shoulders. However, it appears to be a daunting task for the relatively inexperienced leader, especially with the Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP) both vying for Dalit votes.

Adding to the complexity, Chandrashekhar Azad, another emerging Dalit leader, is also gaining prominence. Popular among Dalit youth, the newly elected parliamentarian also poses a challenge for Anand.

Mayawati appointed Anand as her successor in December 2023, just months before the general election. There was widespread anticipation that the youthful Anand would breathe new life into the party, which has been declining over the past 12 years.

During the election campaign, Anand showcased his capabilities and focused on countering the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). However, he faced a setback when Mayawati dismissed him from the position of national coordinator during the election period.

The removal of Anand sent a negative message that Mayawati had capitulated to the BJP’s influence among Dalits, resulting in another defeat for the BSP.

After a few days of the election, Mayawati reinstated her nephew. However, the political landscape has shifted, and despite their rivalry, Dalits have leaned towards the SP. Azad also won the election and emerged as a prominent Dalit voice in Parliament.

Political experts foresee a significant challenge for Anand in establishing his presence among Dalits following Azad’s rise.

Besides this, the shift of Dalit votes from the BJP to the SP instead of the BSP indicates a formidable challenge for the Bahujan Samaj Party to regain its footing.

Dalit intellectuals argue that Anand faces an uphill battle in rebuilding his political standing. Former IPS officer and Dalit intellectual SR Darapuri suggests that Mayawati’s decision to remove her nephew as the party’s coordinator in the midst of elections conveyed a negative message to Dalits.

According to him, this move signaled to Dalits that the BSP is influenced by the BJP, particularly Home Minister Amit Shah, and lacks seriousness in addressing Dalit concerns.

According to Darapuri, only a few Jatav votes remain with Mayawati. He added that reviving the BSP will be challenging for Anand, given the competition from other formidable parties like the SP and the Congress, along with leaders such as Chandrashekhar who are also vying for Dalit support.

He also noted that this message has spread widely, not only among educated Dalits but also in villages, where Mayawati is perceived as aligning with the BJP.

Given Anand’s apparent lack of a Dalit-focused agenda, what issues will he prioritize with Dalits?

The former IPS officer criticized the BSP chief’s decision to appoint Anand as her successor, labeling it as nepotism in Ambedkarite politics. Darapuri pointed out that Mayawati first succeeded Kanshi Ram and has now passed on the mantle to her nephew, likening the process to monarchy rather than democracy.

Uday Singh Shankhwar from Firozabad, known for his advocacy on Dalit issues, asserts that Mayawati’s lack of serious engagement during the elections was evident when she removed Anand midway through the campaign.

Had she contested the elections earnestly, Shankhwar believes the BSP could have secured two-five seats out of 80 on its own. He points out that currently, the Dalit community is more inclined towards Azad than Anand.

In Shankhwar’s view, the BSP can only regain ground through significant effort, considering its credibility has suffered from recent electoral setbacks.

He further commented that while Anand is educated, his lack of political experience complicates the task of revitalizing the party.

Many political analysts argue that the BSP now lacks heavyweight leaders, as figures like Naseemuddin Siddiqui, Ram Achal Rajbhar, Lalji Verma and Babu Singh Kushwaha have all departed from the party. With their absence, the task of revitalizing the party becomes challenging for any single individual.

However, political commentator Mudit Mathur acknowledges that Anand is youthful and dynamic, heading in a promising direction. His efforts could have rejuvenated the party, but his aunt intervened midway, which undermined his credibility.

A resounding message resonated among Dalits that Mayawati may not be fully committed to challenging the ruling BJP.

Mayawati appears to have diverged from the ideals laid down by Kanshi Ram, particularly in advancing Dalit emancipation. Consequently, the BSP has gradually lost all its legislative seats. In this context, the prospects for Anand to revive the party remain uncertain.

Moreover, Anand faces a challenge similar to Azad’s. The latter is outspoken in his criticism of the government, which has garnered him a substantial following among young Dalits.

The critical question now is whether Mayawati or Anand possess a concrete Dalit agenda capable of revitalizing the party, akin to its success in 2007 when it independently formed the government in Uttar Pradesh.

During that period, many believed the BSP would evolve into a national-level party. However, it currently struggles even at the state level. Re-establishing the BSP will likely demand as much effort as launching a new political entity altogether.

According to Dalit thinker Dr Satish Prakash, who teaches physics at the Meerut College, Meerut, the BSP is currently facing a challenging situation. He believes that the arrival of Anand could significantly benefit the party, but achieving this requires substantial grassroots work.

He emphasizes that amidst these adversities, meaningful change can only be achieved through grassroots efforts, not just organizational restructuring.