The Bhim Army wants Swaran Kaur, sister of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founder late Kanshi Ram, to contest upcoming Lok Sabha polls from Punjab, a state with at least 32 per cent population from SC community, the highest in country. The outfit, which describes itself as a group “dedicated to mission of Dalit leaders Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram”, has urged BSP chief Mayawati to give ticket to Swaran Kaur from Punjab.
“We are urging BSP chief Mayawati to spare one ticket for Kanshi Ram’s sister Swaran Kaur, preferably from Punjab. If Mayawati really says that she respects and values Kanshi Ram’s contribution, then it should not be a problem for her at all,” Manjeet Nautiyal, national vice-president, Bhim Army, told The Indian Express.
Kaur, however, said that she is “yet to take a call on it and has not reached any decision.” She also added that “she’ll never contest on a BSP ticket”.
Bhim Army has already announced that it will be campaigning across Punjab against SAD-BJP candidates and would support Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) of which BSP is a part.
Kaur attended the outfit’s rally on March 15 on Kanshi Ram’s birth anniversary at Jantar Mantar in Delhi where its chief Chandrashekhar Azad announced to contest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi.
Recently Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra met Azad at a hospital in Meerut where he is undergoing treatment giving rise to a speculation that Bhim Army might support Congress in UP. The outfit, however, said that Priyanka’s visit was completely ‘apolitical’ and announced that Bhim Army’s only motive is to campaign against “anti-Dalit” BJP. It has announced support to BSP-SP alliance in UP.
In Punjab, there are four reserved Lok Sabha seats – Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur. BSP has already announced candidates from three seats – Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Anandpur Sahib – allotted to it under PDA.
Bhim Army hasn’t specified the seat they want the BSP to give to Kaur. Nautiyal said the outfit only seeks recognition for Kanshi Ram’s family. “We immensely respect Kanshi Ram who spent his entire life for welfare of SC community and their upliftment. We want that at least one member of his family should be in Lok Sabha. It is our duty to recognize the family of a man who gave his entire life for Dalit welfare,” Nautiyal said.
Nautiyal accepted that Bhim Army, “as a political force, is not that strong yet that we can make a candidate contest on our own” in Punjab. “But we will fully support Kaur if she contests even as an independent. We want her to fight and stand up for Dalit rights in Lok Sabha.”
Meanwhile, Kaur (75), who lives at their maternal village Pirthipur in Rupnagar (Ropar) district with her son Ravinder Singh, made it clear that she will not contest on BSP ticket because “the party has gone into wrong hands” and “Mayawati never respected my brother”.
“I attended Bhim Army rally at Delhi because they gave respect to my veerji (brother) who spent his entire life to build the BSP. They want that I should contest from Punjab but I am yet to take a final call. I do not keep well and at this age, it will be difficult for me to campaign. But even if I contest, I will never contest on BSP ticket. The party has fallen into wrong hands,” said Kaura, who also takes care of the Kanshi Ram Temple built in their house’s premises.
Without mincing words, Kaur said that Mayawati is a an “incapable” leader.
“I support BSP as a party because it was built by my veerji. BSP is not the personal property of Mayawati, it is a party of the people which fought for rights of our community. Mayawati has never respected my brother and she is a ‘nalaayak pradhan’ (incapable leader). We have been completely ignored by her. I will support anyone who respects my brother and fights for Dalits and hence I am supporting Bhim Army,” she said.
Meanwhile, Balbir Garcha, Punjab Bhim Army chief, claimed that the outfit has already created a base of at least 80,000 volunteers who will be campaigning against SAD-BJP in Punjab. “Of 22 districts, we already have units in 19 of them barring Sangrur, Fazilka and Amritsar. Our volunteer base of at least 80,000 will be campaigning against SAD-BJP in Punjab. We will support PDA candidates,” he said.
On the other hand, Punjab BSP president Rashpal Singh Raju said that although they welcome Bhim Army’s support to their candidates in Punjab, there was no possibility of giving ticket to Swaran Kaur now as “three tickets under PDA” have already been announced. “We never got any request or application from Kanshi Ram’s sister to consider her ticket. We have already announced our candidates,” he said.
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad was arrested by UP police following clashes between Dalits and Thakurs in May 2017 under stringent National Security Act (NSA) and had spent 16 months in jail. He shot to limelight after his announcement that the group will make every possible effort to keep “anti-Dalit” Modi and BJP out of power.
In March 2016, ahead of Punjab assembly polls, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had visited Pirthipur on Kanshi Ram’s birth anniversary and demanded ‘Bharat Ratna’, the highest civilian honor for the late leader. He had visited Kaur’s residence and garlanded Kanshi Ram’s statue. However, Kaur had not joined AAP and called Kejriwal her ‘special guest’.