Once Babu Ramadhin called himself a "frontline sepoy of Kanshi Ram". These days, the former founder-member of BSP says he is the "only old leader in the Rahul brigade".
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi gestures while addressing an election campaign rally in Lucknow. PTI/Nand Kumar
Back in 2008, a decade after Ramadhin quit the BSP, Rahul Gandhi had persuaded him to join Congress. Today, the
65-year-old is the party’s candidate from the Orai (reserved) assembly constituency.
"Few know that on October 15, 1956, Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar called for ending reservation for Dalits in politics," Ramadhin said. "Ambedkar was disillusioned with the Dalit leadership, as, instead of empowering the poor, they exploited them."
His disagreements with Kanshi Ram, and later Mayawati, are on those lines.
"I told Kanshi Ram that the aim of floating the BSP was not to grab political power by hook or by crook, but to give a larger canvas to the have-nots," he said.
In the Mayawati regime, the rift grew wider.
"In the beginning, we had decided that we would have no bank account as we were not in politics to make money." As Mayawati’s grip on the BSP strengthened, it "deviated from the basic aim," he added primly.
"In my youth, I wanted to study law and languages," said the man who has degrees in both, but decided to dedicate his life to the empowerment of Dalits.
When that dream soured, he left the BSP in 1998. A brief stint with the Samajwadi Party did not work out either.
"Rahul told me the Dalits would get their due under Congress rule," he said. "I am working to spread his message."
The BSP leaders call him a traitor.
Unfazed Ramadhin replies with a couplet: "Mujhe kya garaz tujhe nicha girane ko, tere amaal kafi hain teri haasti mitane ko (I don’t care to remove you from power, your misdeeds would end your rule)."