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Against Modi, pit leaders like Akhilesh, Mayawati or back me: Bhim Army chief to SP-BSP

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: March 15, 2019  | 22:52 IST

(Eds: Adds details) /R New Delhi, Mar 15 (PTI) Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad Friday "welcomed" support of all parties, including the Congress, to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi and appealed to the SP-BSP alliance to either back his candidature or field their top leaders from the constituency. The Dalit leader's comment came two days after Congress general secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra met him at a hospital in Meerut. The BJP is yet to announce the candidature of Modi from Varanasi, the eastern UP seat from where he had won in 2014. Talking to PTI after he addressed a rally in Delhi along with BSP founder Kanshi Ram's sister Swarn Kaur, Chandrashekhar said, "The SP and the BSP should support my candidature from Varanasi to take on Modi. Else, my condition is, they should field any one among Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati. We are supporting the SP-BSP alliance in 79 other constituencies from Uttar Pradesh, they should support us in one seat...I don't want Modi to win again from Varanasi." The Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati have entered into an pre-poll alliance in the politically crucial state, which sends the maximum number of representatives (80) to Parliament. Mulayam Singh Yadav is the SP patriarch. Asked if he would also seek the support of the Congress, he said, "Whoever is ready to fight with us against the BJP is welcome." At the rally organised to mark the 85th birth anniversary of BSP founder Kanshi Ram, Chandrashekhar said he would ensure that Modi was not reelected from Varanasi. "I will challenge Narendra Modi in Varanasi... to protect the Constitution and the rights of Dalits. I do not want to become an MP or MLA. Had that been the case, I would have chosen a reserved seat," he said. The Dalit leader's move is likely to upset the SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh. "After the prime minister came to know that we are going to challenge him in Varanasi, he started washing the feet of sanitation workers in Allahabad," the Bhim Army chief said, referring to Modi's gesture during the Kumbh Mela. He also said the SP-BSP alliance should "send (Kanshi Ram's sister) Swarn Kaur to Parliament". Bhim Army Vice President Manjeet Nautiyal told PTI that they will field a candidate against Union Minister Smriti Irani and also on the seats where the SP-BSP alliance is not strong enough to defeat the BJP. Until now, the Bhim Army had been saying that it won't contest elections. It had welcomed the SP-BSP alliance in the state and said it would support anyone who's ready to take on the BJP and fight for Dalit rights. The Chandrashekhar-led group shot to limelight during the May 2017 clashes between Dalits and upper caste Thakurs in Saharanpur. Chandrashekhar was arrested after the clashes. Though he was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court, the UP Police arrested him under the stringent National Security Act. He was released in September 2018 after 16 months in jail. Referring to incidents of violence and atrocities against the Dalits in different parts of the country, the young leader said, "A tyrant is a tyrant, he can never be a well wisher... That's why I said we can repeat (the Battle of) Bhima Koregaon...The need for it has not arisen yet, but we can do it if the Constitution comes under attack." Chandrashekhar alleged that the Narendra Modi government's decision to give 10 per cent quota to the general category poor is an attack on the Constitution and is aimed at serving the BJP's interests. PTI GVS SMN TIR TIR

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