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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

Akash, anointed Mayawati’s successor, has Kanshi Ram’s style, not his spark | Opinion

Akash Anand has a tall order to rejuvenate the Bahujan Samaj Party and many believe he lacks the spark to do so.

india Updated: Sep 18, 2019 22:41 IST
Sunita Aron
Sunita Aron
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Akash, with folded hands, standing next to BSP leader Satish Mishra.
Akash, with folded hands, standing next to BSP leader Satish Mishra.
         

Way back in 1989, I met Kanshi Ram for the first time at the State Guest House on Mira Bai Marg in Lucknow.

By then he had emerged as the messiah of the Dalits. Contrary to the common dressing style of Indian politicians - men in white kurta pyjama - he somehow made a different style statement. Wearing an olive green soft pullover with trousers, the tall and fair complexioned man sat sipping Bisleri water while talking about his mission to empower the poorest of the poor – the Dalits.

However, despite his somewhat ‘aristocratic’ dressing style and his demeanour quite different from that of his supporters that largely came from downtrodden class, the ‘sahab’, as he was often called, soon emerged as a force to reckon with, rubbing shoulders with the who’s who of the political world within a few years of founding the Bahujan Samaj Party in 1984. What made him popular in his constituency was his daredevilry in taking on the ‘manuvadis’ and provocative slogans.

BSP chief Mayawati has now anointed her young and tech savvy nephew Akash,Anand as her successor. Though his dressing style reminds many of Kanshi Ram, he has yet to display that leadership spark.

Sample this: Addressing a public gathering on Mayawati’s birthday in Lucknow, Kanshi Ram had said, “There are three national parties in the country- the BJP, Congress and the BSP. My lifetime ambition is to see the BSP occupy the first position by uprooting, overthrowing the number 1 party. And this is not possible without funds as the number one party is a party of ‘dhanvaans’.”

Mayawati was then heading a BSP-BJP coalition government and occupying the first row were senior BJP ministers. It was their chief minister’s birthday.

Kanshi Ram also chose Mayawati as his successor because of the leadership qualities and her fiery speeches. She literally spitted venom against the upper castes, that eventually aided in consolidating the Bahujan Samaj.

RK Choudhury, who was with Kanshi Ram at the time of formation of the BSP, explains, ‘Our people applaud aggression against oppression as till date they continue to suffer at the hands of the upper caste. Untouchability is still prevalent in our society.’

Now that Mayawati has announced her foreign educated nephew 24-year-old Akash as her successor, many have been discussing the young man who was spotted in smart blue suit and red designer shoes at the press conference in which Mayawati and Akhilesh had announced SP-BSP alliance ahead of the 2019 general election.

On June 24 , 2019, Mayawati, who has been a staunch critic of dynastic politics, anointed her younger brother Anand Kumar as party’s national vice president and Akash as the national coordinator. Barring the Brahmin face of the party Satish Mishra, who also takes care of her legal battles, Mayawati is a loner at the top. She never likes advisers and she has none today.

Akash, who has often remained a silent observer, had addressed a rally in Agra after the Election Commission had banned Mayawati’s public rallies during the Lok Sabha elections.

A senior BSP leader from Agra said, ‘Emotionally-charged people clapped when Akash sought to know if he had their support. But many may quit the party as they believe ‘raja ka beta raja hoga’ is a manuvadi culture. Kanshi Ram could have handed over his legacy to his brother or wife instead of Mayawati. The party will divide.’

Another senior leader said, ‘ He is a young boy who knows little about Kanshi Ram’s bahujan movement or parliamentary democracy. As of now he lacks the spark that Mayawati displayed. People used to throng her rallies to have a glimpse of her.’

Another leader, who had an opportunity to shake hands with Akash when RJD leader Tejaswi had called on Mayawati, found him to be ‘intelligent, silent observer who spoke little.’

Another senior leader observed, “Even when the crowds were raising the slogan ‘Kanshi Ram ka mission adhura, karengi behen Mayawati poora’, many stalwarts, who had cycled with ‘sahib’ from the days of the Backward And Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF) in the early 1980s, had either walked out of the party or were shown the door. Behenji alone can keep the party united. It will divide into factions when she won’t be around.”

There is also this argument that while Mayawati had quit her teaching job and dedicated her life to the mission, tech savvy Akash, an MBA from London College, is a businessman. His father owns huge property and is facing investigations.

Secondly, while Kanshi Ram had handed over a robust party with a network of committed cadre and dependable Dalit officials, Akash will be taking over a weak organisation with frustrated cadres.

Moreover, he will also face challenge from Bhim army and BAMCEF whose leaders Chandrashekhar and Bawan Meshram are actively consolidating the Bahujan Samaj.

However, Akash has yet to display his political style, which may not have aggressiveness as an ingredient.

Prof Badri Narain, who has written books on Kanshi Ram, says, ‘There is a considerable change in the psyche of the Dalits who now want to climb the ladder by any means without deriding any caste or community.’

However, he agrees that Akash or whosoever inherits Mayawati’s legacy has to be a grassroots leader. Mayawati may be grooming him for the same!

But an old timer, who have seen the rise and fall of BSP said, “The Bahujan movement ended 15 years back after Kanshi Ram fell ill and now the party will be over. If someone can still save the end of an era, it is none but Mayawati who away from lavish frills used to sit in scorching heat and hold cadre meetings. Only then the young boy Akash will get his true political lessons.”

First Published: Sep 18, 2019 21:59 IST

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