Chandrasekhar Azad Ravan, 35, the leader of Bhim
Army, is only an emerging player in Uttar Pradesh’s myriad political dynamics.
But for the 2022 UP Assembly elections, this young Dalit-Bahujan icon with a
difference has taken upon himself a mammoth challenge – battle Yogi Adityanath,
the chief minister of India’s biggest state and the head priest of the politically
dominant Gorakhpur Math.

Also Read | Yogi vs who: All eyes on Adityanath, can Ravan pose a challenge?

Over the last five years, Ravan has become a
regular feature in peoples’ movements against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led
Union government. From the anti-CAA protests to movements against atrocities on
Dalits, Chandrasekhar Azad Ravan has made himself one of the faces of political
resistance in India. Time magazine featured him in its list of “100
Emerging Leaders who are Shaping the Future,” in February 2021.

The Beginnings

Born in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district,
Chandrasekhar Azad Ravan rose to prominence when he installed a hoarding on the
outskirts of a village which said: “The Great Chamars of Ghadkhauli Welcome
You.” Subsequently, he played prominent roles in the anti-CAA protests, the
protests against the three agriculture laws, and the outrage over the Hathras
rape case.

Role in the polls

While Chandrasekhar Azad Ravan leads the Bhim Army,
a primarily socio-political organisation, for elections he formed the Azad
Samaj Party (Kanshiram). Ravan’s party contested the Bihar Assembly elections
in 2020 in alliance with the Pappu Yadav-led Jan Adhikar Party.

Why Gorakhpur

No observer of Indian politics believes
Chandrasekhar Azad Ravan will pose a serious electoral challenge to Yogi
Adityanath in Gorakhpur Urban. However, fighting the giant is going to bolster Ravan’s
profile in political circles.

Also Read | Uttar Pradesh polls, phase 6: 5 key battles to watch out for

This is the same strategy Kanshiram, one of the
most iconic Dalit leaders of independent India, deployed when he fought the
polls against VP Singh in Allahabad (Prayagraj) in 1987.   

It was Kanshiram’s campaigns during these elections that turned him into the leader of the Dalit political movement in Uttar Pradesh. A role he would play for years until transferring the leadership to Mayawati. 

Ravan seeks to make forays into Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party’s “vote bank,” but interestingly, the firebrand leader who pulls no punches has never said anything critical about Mayawati or her brand of Dalit politics.