Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Ambedkar grandson’s party to contest Uttar Pradesh polls

Anandraj Ambedkar's move could split UP's crucial vote bank, which has supported the BSP headed by Mayawati

New Delhi: In what could roil electoral calculations, Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar’s grandson Anandraj Ambedkar said his new political party, which is focused on Dalit issues, will contest the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.

The move could split the state’s crucial Dalit vote bank, which has traditionally supported the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) headed by Mayawati.

Republican Sena, which was formally launched by Anandraj Ambedkar in Lucknow in May 2015, the year of his grandfather’s 125th birth anniversary, will be contesting 200 seats.

“Babasaheb wrote the constitution but his ideology has not been followed by any political party. Our aim is to form a party based on his legacy and thoughts," said Ambedkar about his grandfather, who was the main architect of the Constitution.

On the party’s poll agenda, he said, “We will work towards providing the have-nots satta and sampatti (power and property)."

Though the party will work towards the uplift of the Dalit community, Ambedkar said the focus was not just Dalits but all people who are marginalized.

The new party is also clear that it will not form an alliance with the BSP. Ambedkar said his party was open to working with either the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the Congress.

He said the party is in talks with some BSP members, one of the major players in the state which has for years has claimed B.R. Ambedkar’s legacy, who are interested in joining the Republican Sena.

“Babasaheb wanted to end caste-based discrimination, and so do we. No party has a concrete plan to tackle the issue of farmer suicides and to correct the abysmal state of education in our country—these are the two main issues we want to work towards. Farmers and students are present across castes and we will work for all of them," said Sohanvir Singh, president of the party’s state unit.

With a workforce claimed to be around 6,000, the party has already kicked off its campaign. It has so far conducted press conferences in 23 of the 74 districts, while the party’s posters have been put out throughout Uttar Pradesh. Ambedkar, currently based in Mumbai, is expected to join the campaign towards the end of February.

“About 25% of the vote in UP is cast in the name of B.R Ambedkar, but no party has done justice to his name. But now, with his grandson entering the fray, people are seeing in him Ambedkar’s legacy and this has energized the party as well," said Singh. However, it is not just Ambedkar’s presence but also the party’s performance in the panchayat elections which has boosted the morale of party workers. In the zilla panchayat elections held in the state last year, four candidates supported by the party were able to win in the Saharanpur and Hardoi districts.

“We were able to win two seats each in these two districts and that also without much campaigning. We just spoke to people about our agenda and ideology two to three days before the election, and the result was quite positive. We would have won more if we had more candidates then," said Singh.

Though the party seems confident of the support it commands in the state, analysts feel their entry will only split the Dalit vote.

“Whatever they say in press conferences does not matter as they are still to connect with the masses. There is no ground-level mobilization, even among the Dalit community," said S.K. Dwivedi, former head of the political science department at Lucknow University.

“People are not familiar with the party or its leader; they have only read about it in the papers. At the most they will cut a few thousand votes of the BSP, which will benefit rival Samajwadi Party. It is highly unlikely that they’ll be able to win a single seat for themselves," he added.

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