Bhim army chief Chandrashekher aka Ravan appears to be working to develop a Dalit-Muslim equation in the parts of Uttar Pradesh to ensure the BJP’s defeat. His recent meeting with some Muslim leaders is being seen as a step in the direction of building a base for his group among the Muslim population.

On 14 September, shortly after his release from prison after 15 months, Chandrashekher was welcomed by many political and social personalities who came to meet him at his home in Chutmalpur town of district Saharanpur. The list included some Muslim names as well.

Umar Khalid and Nadeem, leaders from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, came to meet Chandrasekhar. This was followed by a meeting with Arshad Madni, president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind.

Chandrashekher had gone to Deoband to meet Madni, where the two held a half-hour-long meeting behind closed doors.

He also spent a lot of time with Khalid. The leaders maintained that no political inferences should be drawn from the meetings as these were just made out of courtesy. But political observers are unlikely to reject the claim of this new found friendship of the rising Dalit icon of Saharanpur with Muslim leaders.

Chandrashekhar also met an influential Congress leader and former MP Imraan Masood shortly after his release. He thanked Masood for extending his support to him when he was in jail.

PFI (Popular Front of India) leader Ismail Ahmed was also among those who came to meet Chandrashekher. The two discussed various issues.

The bonhomie has led to murmurs that Chandrashekher is attempting to build a Dalit-Muslim equation before the 2019 Lok Sabha election in his favour – an equation that worked well for Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the past.

Shortly after his release from the Saharanpur jail he had cleared that he would work to ensure defeat of the BJP and bring together all those who are exploited. He had also claimed to strengthen the yet to be formed ‘grand alliance’ and support it to ensure BJP’s defeat in the same way a Dalit-Muslim equation beat the saffron party in Kairana.

During his welcome programme in Gangoh town of Saharanpur on Wednesday, Chandrashekher had announced that Bhim Army will not contest election but would prepare a force to support any alliance against the BJP.

Chandrashekher will now travel the length and breadth of the country to garner support of individuals, groups and organisations and also build up a base for Bhim army.

On Thursday, he left for Punjab where he is scheduled to visit Dera Sachkhand and Valmiki Tirth to seek blessings. The Bhim army’s district president Kamal Walia says that Chandrashekhar will tour Punjab for four days and meet people there.