The Uttar Pradesh government has refuted suggestions that it released Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad from custody under the NSA for the sake of Scheduled Caste votes, saying he was allowed to walk free as normalcy has now returned to Saharanpur.
"The government had sought a confidential report and found that the situation has normalised, and he was released," UP Law Minister Brijesh Pathak told PTI in Lucknow.
Azad was detained under the stringent National Security Act (NSA) after the 2017 Saharanpur caste violence.
The UP government ordered his release on September 13, revoking the earlier order which would have kept him in detention till November 1.
"Today, the situation is normal in Saharanpur and the adjoining districts," Mr Pathak said in an interview.
He said the state government's decision to release Azad should not be viewed from the point of elections.
"When someone is booked under the NSA, it is not for life. It is first imposed for three months and if the district administration feels it necessary, then it is extended for the next three more months and so on," he said.
"The NSA is an immediate measure that is slapped on a person who poses a threat to society, to law and order or can trigger fear," he said
The Bhim Army leader was arrested in June 2017 in connection with the May 5 clashes in which one person was killed and 16 others injured in Saharanpur's Shabbirpur village.
On November 2, 2017, the Allahabad High Court granted bail to him. But a day before his expected release, he was booked under the NSA, effectively extending his detention.
On his release, Chandrashekhar Azad, who is also known as 'Ravan', claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party feared his detention might dent its Dalit vote bank ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
"I am out and the BJP is going to face the ire of the Dalit samaj. This time, the BJP will be out of power," he told reporters.
Azad said if a 'mahagathbandhan', or a grand alliance of opposition parties, comes about in UP ahead of the 2019 election, he will "definitely' support it.
"If the mahagathbandhan happens, the BJP will be reduced to single digits," he said.
"In the Lok Sabha bypolls, the BJP lost Gorakhpur and Phulpur and tasted defeat in Kairana," Azad reminded the ruling party.
Commenting on the possible emergence of an anti-BJP alliance for the 2019 elections, the minister said, "We take each and every election very seriously."
"The gathbandhan will hardly have an impact on the BJP's poll prospects as their 'niti' (policy) and 'niyat' (intention) and their manner of working has been seen by the people of Uttar Pradesh, be it the SP, the BSP, the Congress or even the RLD," he said.
"People have not forgotten the anarchy unleashed during the five years of SP rule from 2012 to 2017," Mr Pathak said, adding the state government then worked like "an unguided missile".
"If there is any alliance, we will challenge them in a befitting manner. The people are with the BJP," he said.
Asked to comment on a remark by Akhilesh Yadav, in which the Samajwadi Party chief suggested he was willing to take "two steps back" in a deal with Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati, Mr Pathak said, "Both of them are sinking."
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