Akash Anand – Whose 'exit' is more talked about than his ‘entry’ - Hindustan Times

Akash Anand – Whose 'exit' is more talked about than his ‘entry’

May 10, 2024 12:46 AM IST

Akash Anand, BSP’s anointed heir apparent, was sacked by party chief and aunt. Did BSP miss a trick by removing him in the middle of the elections?

It was on April 16, 2019, when a man wearing glasses and dressed in a white shirt and a pair of blue denim jeans slowly walked up the stage set to address the cheering gathering at Kothi Meena Bazar ground in Agra.

Bahujan Samaj Party national coordinator Akash Anand (HT Photo)(HT_PRINT) PREMIUM
Bahujan Samaj Party national coordinator Akash Anand (HT Photo)(HT_PRINT)

Akash Anand had been introduced to party functionaries in 2017 during a visit to Saharanpur with his aunt and mentor Mayawati but his address in Agra, in many ways the Dalit capital, in 2019 during the Lok Sabha election campaign was seen as his first step in politics.

Anand, then 24, reached Agra as a substitute for Mayawati who had been banned from campaigning for 48 hours.

Encouraged by the likes of Samajwadi Party’s (SP) Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal’s (RLD), the late Chaudhary Ajit Singh – the two parties were in alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) in 2019 – Anand chose to make a short speech.

Aap log samne wale ki zamanat zabt karaoge ki nahi?” (Will you not leave opposing candidates with lost deposit?), Anand asked rhetorically, asking supporters to ensure a heavy victory for the BSP’s Agra candidate. The crowd cheered and clapped for the “future” of BSP.

Three days later, Anand was part of a politically historic moment at the grounds of a Christian college in Mainpuri when Samajwadi patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati shared the stage after two, long decades.

It is said that Anand’s speech in Agra followed the decision taken by Mayawati on December 10, 2023, in Lucknow when she declared the 29-year-old as her successor and designated him to oversee the party in all states except Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The rise

The political journey of Akash Anand, son of Mayawati’s brother Anand Kumar, had begun. An MBA from London, Anand managed Mayawati’s election campaign strategy during the 2019 Lok Sabha election; during the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly election, he went on to handle the party’s social media campaign. Later in 2019, he was made BSP’s national coordinator after Mayawati rejigged the party after breaking the party’s alliance with SP.

Five years later, in 2024, Anand returned to Agra and addressed a rally on April 12. It was a far more confident and assertive Anand who took the stage to face the crowd.

Having placed a laptop in front to be doubly sure of facts, Anand addressed the gathering in front of a Bhim Rao Ambedkar memorial.

''We need jobs, not charity and the next time someone comes with a sack of free ration, throw it back on his face. Do they consider us fools? This Gujarat Model is not going to work in our state of UP. We cannot be fooled any more as awareness is rising among people," Anand said. Continuing his offensive against BJP, Anand termed the party as a 'gaddar’ (traitor) and blamed it for working towards ending the reservation.

The aggressive tone of his speech was aimed at the youth – who it was thought would like his strong anti-BJP posture – and also the older supporters of the party to assure them that the party was in safe and assured hands.

Anand moved on from Agra, later to be seen in one-on-one interviews on television channels. Anand’s media outreach was seen as a sharp change from Mayawati’s policies. Wary of media, the BSP chief had in the past often accused television channels of screening “fake surveys” and “exit polls” to demoralise the party and its workers: Since the days of founder Kanshiram, the BSP has never been known for its fondness for media.

The aggressive tone of Anand’s speeches grew in the days ahead. He compared the Yogi Aditya Nath regime with the 'Talibani" regime in Afghanistan, terming it a terrorist government at a rally in Sitapur on April 28. Two cases were promptly registered against him for violating the election commission’s model code of conduct. His rallies at Auraiya and Hamirpur on May 1 were cancelled and the reason given was the illness of a family member.

The fall

It came as a surprise when Mayawati announced earlier this month that Anand was being sacked as the party’s national coordinator until he acquired ‘maturity’.

Even to the astute political observer, it is not clear whether Anand’s sudden sacking from party posts was, at least partially, because of his aggressive anti-BJP posture. However, there was no questioning of Mayawati’s decision from within the party. “Behanji’s wish is final” has been the refrain.

Rashtriya adhyaksh ke tor par Behanji ne kuch soch kar hi faisla liya hoga....Ye faisla jaroor party ke hit me hoga...unka (Behanji) koi faisla galat nahi hota" (Removal of Akash Anand from his responsibilities and status is the decision of big sister thus must be in the interest of the party. She never takes any decision which is against party interest)” said Gore Lal, the party’s Agra division zonal coordinator. Lal did admit that Anand seemed to have connected with BSP’s younger supporters.

Lawyer Kartar Singh Bharti, an organiser of Bhim Nagari — a four-day celebration that takes place to mark the birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar, is worried about the state of the Dalit movement in the country but defended Mayawati’s decision.

“Naming or removal of Akash Anand, or for that matter anyone in the party, is nobody’s concern except for the party leadership. In fact, it is not even that important,” said Bharti.

The contrarian view

However, Devki Nandan Sone, a Dalit thinker and an admirer of Late Babu Jagjivan Ram, disagreed.

“If nothing else then the timing of such a decision is going to have a negative impact. Akash Anand was doing well and youth amongst Jatav, one-fifth of UP population, were connecting themselves with BSP after the arrival of Anand and his exit to await return with ‘his maturity’ has not gone down well,” said Sone.

“Mayawati when she entered politics in the ‘80s was known for the same aggressive posturing and had even challenged calling Scheduled Castes as ‘harijan’ - a term coined by Mahatma Gandhi. This had gone down well with the Jatav community and Mayawati never looked back and rose to become chief minister of the most populous state three times with support and once on her own (2007),” Sone said.

“Akash Anand also exhibited a similar ‘tevar’ (attitude) but God knows what brought his removal. We, as well-wishers of the BSP, suggest that there should be an advisory board with Dalit thinkers in BSP so that such decisions, like going alone in elections, breaking (the) alliance with SP can be considered only after due discussions,” he said.

As a last word, the man 'yet to attain maturity', Anand showed grace in his exit by posting on the social media platform X that he respects the party's decision. He added that he will continue to fight for the “Bhim Mission” and society. In his post, Anand also hailed Mayawati as someone worshipped by crores of followers who are living a life of self-respect because of her political struggle.

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