Operating as an organisation working for the emancipation and the rights of Dalits, the Bhim Army formerly called “untouchables” is now set to enter electoral politics.
The organisation’s chief Chandra Shekhar Azad, who has previously dabbled in politics, said he would formally announce the name of the party which would work for the welfare of the poor and untouchables.
“We will prepare an alternative to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. We tried to join hands and work unitedly with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) but its leader was unwilling to do so. We will now set up our office in Lucknow soon,” he said.
The rise of the Bhim Army, which has been the face of Dalit protests, could occupy the vacuum left by the BSP whose vote share is on a decline, said political analyst Shesh Narain Singh.
In the 2017, State legislative elections, the party could secure only 17 seats out of 403, down from 80 in 2012.
Reports suggest that Dalit youth also subscribes to the outfit’s ideology.
“People will opt for them for their active mobilisation. The members for the outfit are out in protest on roads, in contrast to the BSP which does not take part in such protests,” Singh said.
Azad, the chief of the organisation, spent over a year behind bars in connection with caste violence between Thakurs (upper caste people) and Dalits in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district in 2017.
Even after independence, Dalits in India are often subjected to social, economic and physical discrimination. According to the National Crime Research Bureau (NCRB), over the decade to 2016, the crime rate against Dalits rose by 25 percent; from 16.3 crimes per 100,000 Dalits in 2006, to 20.3 in 2016.
The Dalits occupy the the lowest rung on the Hindu caste hierarchy.