BSP leader Akash AnandBSP leader Akash Anand

Virendra Singh Rawat

Far removed from archetypal caricature of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) cadres in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the party’s mofussil rank and file is being marshaled by a suave and UK-educated Akash Anand.

After debuting on the BSP political canvas ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, 29-year-old Anand, the nephew of BSP president and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati, has been dexterously working behind the scenes.

In the current elections, Mayawati and Anand, who is BSP national convenor, have the ‘jumbo’ task of making the contest a triangular vis-à-vis other major players Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress-Samajwadi Party INDIA alliance. Elephant is the elections symbol of BSP.

In his public meetings, Anand is cornering the ruling BJP on burning issues of jobs, inflation, women safety, reservation etc, while firing salvos at the SP for allegedly treating minorities as mere vote-bank.

For his fiery speech, he was booked by police for the alleged violation of model code of conduct during a rally in Sitapur on April 28.

Moreover, by giving tickets to a large number of Muslim candidates apart from the other backward castes (OBC) and dalits, the BSP is attempting to queer the pitch of the so called ‘secular’ parties especially its bête noire SP.

Whilst Anand, who is the son of Mayawati’s younger brother Anand Kumar, was reckoned as Mayawati’s plausible heir apparent, ‘behenji’ in December 2023 had formally named him as her successor at a time when BSP is at best a pale shadow of its dominant past when it was a political force to reckon with.

The party formed the government multiple times in UP, the country’s most populous and politically significant state.

While senior BSP leader and Mayawati’s close aide Satish Chandra Mishra is missing from the election trail, Anand is touring UP extensively to address rallies.

Meanwhile, BSP state president Vishwanath Pal claimed the party would win more seats in these polls than the 2019 elections, since SP was much weaker today while Congress is bereft of any cadre base UP. BSP won 10 seats in 2019 Lok Sabha polls in the state.

Although, there is a stark difference between Mayawati and Akash Anand with regards to age, political acumen, experience, oratory skills and communication styles, yet the BSP cadres have accepted the young leader as the deserving claimant to the coveted post.

A senior BSP leader on condition of anonymity noted that any decision of Mayawati is dutifully taken as the cardinal truth by the rank and file.

“If behenji has promoted Akash Anand in the party’s hierarchy, the BSP cadres are happy to accept him as their leader. Besides, he is actively involved in party affairs and tries to take everyone along by meeting them, talking and taking suggestions,” he said.

Akash Anand did schooling from Delhi and obtained a management degree from the UK, before returning to India to lend a helping hand to his father’s business.

Interestingly, then UP CM Mayawati, while addressing a rally in Lucknow on August 9, 2008, had hinted at her plausible successor to lead the BSP.

Without taking any name, the dalit czarina announced she had nominated the successor, who was 18-20 years younger to her, hailing from her own ‘chamar’ (scheduled caste) community, but not hailing from her family.

She claimed ‘his’ name was mentioned in a sealed envelope, left in the safe custody of her close confidantes, who would disclose the name in event of her death or incarceration.

Later, after the drubbing of the BSP in 2017 UP assembly polls, Mayawati had, on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14 appointed her brother Anand Kumar as the party’s national vice president.

A few days later, Mayawati formally introduced Akash Anand to senior party leaders saying he had returned from London after doing his MBA, and that he would henceforth look after the party affairs.

It was an explicit indication of her future plans and the generational shift in the BSP, which was founded by late Kanshi Ram for the marginalised and downtrodden sections.

Anand Kumar was later relieved from the post after Mayawati was widely criticised for pursuing dynastic politics.

In this backdrop, the ascendance of Akash Anand in the BSP pecking order stands contrary to Mayawati’s public posturing of not promoting kin to the top post.

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