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After baptism by fire, Chandrashekhar Azad says focus on emerging as major Opposition force in UP

Encouraged by the party’s vote share in Uttar Pradesh, Chandrashekhar Azad said his outfit would work to increase and strengthen its cadre base ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections.

Written by Avaneesh Mishra | Lucknow | November 11, 2020 8:04:58 am
Azad Samaj Party chief Chandrashekhar Azad. (Express Photo: Abhinav Saha)

Though the Azad Samaj Party ended third in the Bulandshahr Assembly bypoll in Uttar Pradesh and did not fare well in the Bihar elections, party chief Chandrashekhar Azad on Tuesday said there was a lack of “strong Opposition” in UP and his outfit would work hard to fill the gap. This was the party’s electoral debut.

In Bulandshahr, the party received 6.69 per cent of the votes, and emerged ahead of the Congress and the Samajwadi Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal (SP-RLD) alliance.

In Bihar, the party contested 24 seats after forming the Progressive Democratic Alliance with Pappu Yadav’s Jan Adhikar Party and some smaller parties such as the Bahujan Mukti Party and the Ansari Mahapanchayat but failed to perform well.

Encouraged by the party’s vote share in Uttar Pradesh, Chandrashekhar Azad said his outfit would work to increase and strengthen its cadre base ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections.

Officially registered only in October, the Azad Samaj Party chose Bulandshahr as it is in the Saharanpur region that Azad hails from. It also has a significant base in the region provided by the Bhim Army. In 2017, Azad became well known after the Dalit-Thakur clashes in Saharanpur.

Azad told The Indian Express that the party might have made some mistakes in Bulandshahr, resulting in fewer votes than expected. The party’s candidate, Mohammad Yameen, secured 13,530 votes. The BJP won the seat with 88,645 votes, while the BSP came second with 66,943 votes.

Now, the Azad Samaj Party leader is planning to set up a permanent base in Uttar Pradesh. “We were fighting an election for the first time and it was a fight of principles against money power, mafia power and luring voters using money and alcohol. Our party was registered just on October 14 and we had just a few days to prepare. That is why we contested just one seat. We must not forget that we have a vote share better than the Congress and the SP-RLD alliance candidates. The people have supported us and we welcome the mandate,” Azad said.

Asked about the performance of the party and its allies in Bihar, he said, “In Bihar, we contested 24 seats with a coalition with Pappu Yadav’s Jan Adhikar Party, Bahujan Mukti Party, Ansari Mahapanchayat and others. Even though I could not spend enough time in Bihar, in the Maharajganj seat we secured more than 7,000 votes. I cannot say we are satisfied, but we have started the struggle. We will work even harder and will win hearts.”

Azad said his outfit would work to emerge as the major Opposition force in Uttar Pradesh, leaving behind major parties such as the SP, the BSP and the Congress. One of the lessons learnt from this by-election was that having a strong cadre base was crucial, he added. The Azad Samaj Party would enlist 20,000 youngsters in every Vidhan Sabha constituency, Azad said.

“The way people showed their faith in different political parties and felt cheated, we had to come to the ground. In Uttar Pradesh, elections were held in seven seats and BJP won most of them. There is no strong Opposition, and we are here to fill that gap,” he said.

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