Chandrashekhar, the founder of the Bhim Army, walked out of a jail in Uttar Pradesh around 2:40 am in the early hours of Friday. Arrested a year ago over his role in caste clashes, the 31-year-old was released two months before schedule on a request from his mother, said the police.
In his very first remarks to the media, Chandrashekhar made it clear that he has big political plans for his Bhim Army with just months to go for the national election.
"Those who are saying they won't lose for another 50 years will be thrown out of power in 2019, you mark my words," he said, targeting the BJP without taking names.
"Those who speak about Bahujans, those who fight against upper caste domination, they should ensure that their alliance cannot be broken, they should fight with unity."
The shadowy leader was arrested in June last year after caste clashes in western Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur, which left one dead and many injured. Caught after a month-long search, he was booked under the National Security Act.
He was to be released in November, but a police statement ascribed his early release to his mother's request and "changed circumstances".
The Bhim Army was set up around three years ago in Saharanpur and has gained considerable popularity among members of the Scheduled Castes.
Locals say the group is aggressive in its campaign for empowerment of Scheduled Castes, but is prompt to respond to calls for help. The Bhim Army also runs some 300 schools.
Over the years, the group has been able to pitch itself as the answer for Scheduled Castes members seen to be disenchanted with former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, the chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party.
Chandrashekhar was tracked down through his calls by the police in Dalhousie, a hill resort in Himachal Pradesh. The police had declared a reward of Rs 12,000 for any information on him.
While being hunted, he had given interviews to the media from various hideouts. He alleged that atrocities against underprivileged communities were on the rise since Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath took charge.
Sources say his release could be a strategy to lessen the influence of Mayawati's party in western Uttar Pradesh ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
In the recent by-elections in the region, the BJP lost two seats it held to the opposition Samajwadi Party-Mayawati-Ajit Singh combine -- the Kairana Lok Sabha seat and the Noorpur assembly seat.
Releasing Chandrashekhar at this time will give him the space to reclaim political capital among his community again. So far, his organisation has not given any hint about any kind of alliance with the BSP or the opposition parties in the state.
Over the last year, Mayawati had taken several digs at the Bhim Army, suggesting it was a product of the BJP and the party was using it to target the BSP and block its attempts to forge an alliance of all castes in UP.
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