Ravan will contest the poll as Azad Samaj Party candidate.
Though the battle between Yogi Adityanath and Ravan will mainly be one of perception, the Bhim Army hopes that other opposition parties will not field their candidates in Gorakhpur and support Ravan.
Ravan is a lawyer and Dalit-Bahujan rights activist. He is a self-styled Ambedkarite, the co-founder and national president of the Bhim Army, who goes around declaring himself to be a “proud cham**r”. In February 2021, Time magazine had featured him in its annual list of 100 Emerging Leaders who are Shaping the Future. If his emergence in noisy activism has thrown the life of several cities in the country out of gear, his foray into mainstream politics has shrunk the space for Mayawati, the head of the Bahujan Samaj Party, who is surprisingly maintaining a low key in the campaign for this year’s Uttar Pradesh election.
The Bhim Army was founded by Satish Kumar, Vijay Ratan Singh and Ravan in 2015. The organisation runs more than 350 free schools for Dalits and Bahujans in the districts of Saharanpur, Meerut, Shamli and Muzaffarnagar in western Uttar Pradesh.
The stated mission of Bhim Army is “direct action based on confrontation to preserve or restore the dignity of Dalit” and it has an estimated 20,000 followers in the Saharanpur region, which has a 20% Dalit population. The party purports to support the marginalised sections of society such as Dalits, farmers and more broadly what Ravan describes as “the Bahujan community which includes SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities who had been away from the mainstream for long”.
Ravan has said that “We may even gherao the Vidhan Sabha in support of our demands”. He has sought to build a coalition between Dalit and Muslims against the BJP and has described himself as a supporter of the Indian Constitution and an opponent of theocracy and manuvāda ideology.