The first candidate to be declared against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Gorakhpur is Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad.
The Dalit leader had said earlier he would contest against Yogi Adityanath in the February-March election. Today, his party formally announced it, days after the BJP declared that Yogi Adityanath would contest the UP election from Gorakhpur Sadar.
Yogi Adityanath is running for MLA for the first time. But his main rival will be the Samajwadi Party candidate, not announced yet.
This will also be Chandrashekhar Azad’s first election.
The 34-year-old had famously backtracked after announcing in 2019 that he would contest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He later explained that since he had no party at the time, it was best to support Mayawati’s party and the Congress.
Now that he has one, he would take on Yogi Adityanath, he had said.
“It is not important for me to win a place in the UP assembly. It is important for me that Yogi Adityanath should not get to be in the assembly. So I will contest wherever he is contesting,” he had said last year.
The Bhim Army chief and his party have no base in Gorakhpur or even eastern Uttar Pradesh. The Gorakhpur Sadar assembly seat has been with the BJP continuously since 1989, except once when it was won by Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha. In 2017, the BJP’s Radha Mohan Das Agarwal won the seat back by a margin of over 60,000 votes.
Chandrashekhar Azad recently declared that his party would not tie up with the Samajwadi Party of Akhilesh Yadav, after their seat share talks collapsed.
He declared that he felt cheated by the Samajwadi Party and that it had reneged on its promise to offer his party 25 seats to contest.
Akhilesh Yadav said he would try to ensure that two seats were set aside for Azad’s party but he was told the Bhim Army chief was no longer interested.
The Chandrashekhar Azad-led Bhim Army drew attention during the May 2017 clashes between Dalits and upper caste Thakurs in Saharanpur.
Chandrashekhar Azad was arrested after the clashes. Though he was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court, the Uttar Pradesh police arrested him under the stringent National Security Act (NSA). He was released in September 2018 after 16 months in jail.