With Empty Pockets, Rohith Vemula’s Friend to Contest AP Polls
Rohith Vemula’s friends and family remember the Dalit PhD scholar who took his own life on 17 January 2016. 
Rohith Vemula’s friends and family remember the Dalit PhD scholar who took his own life on 17 January 2016. (Photo: Facebook/PTI/Altered by The Quint)

With Empty Pockets, Rohith Vemula’s Friend to Contest AP Polls

While Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are home to some of the wealthiest political leaders across the country, BSP’s Parchur candidate Pedapudi Vijay Kumar’s nomination stands out for a number of reasons.

Contesting from the Parchur Assembly constituency in Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh, 30-year-old Vijay is unemployed and has zero moveable and immoveable assets. According to the election affidavit he filed with the Election Commission, Vijay has no cash in hand, no investments or deposits, hasn’t taken a single loan till date, owns no motor vehicle or jewellery, and doesn’t own any land.

A native of Muppalla village in Prakasam district, Vijay is president of the Ambedkar Students’ Association, Andhra Pradesh unit, and is currently pursuing his PhD in political science from the University of Hyderabad (UoH).

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Led the ‘Justice for Rohith’ Movement

Vijay’s candidature assumes importance not just for being the poorest candidate fighting elections in Andhra Pradesh, but for his strong resolve to contest amid adversity.

Belonging to the SC Malla community, Vijay was one of the four students suspended along with Rohith Vemula in December 2015, for allegedly assaulting the then ABVP president of UoH – Nandam Susheel Kumar. What followed were a series of shocking events, which included pressure from the Centre to expel five students from the university apart from social restrictions being imposed on them, following which Rohith committed suicide on 17 January 2016.

After Rohith’s death, Vijay led the ‘Justice for Rohith’ movement along with other ASA students. The following year, Vijay also unsuccessfully contested for the president’s post in the university students’ union elections.

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‘Dalits, STs Should Contest from Everywhere’

In an earlier interview with The News Minute, when asked why he chose to contest from a general seat, Vijay said:

“A notion is built that SCs and STs should contest only from reserved seats, while the general seats are for the upper castes. This further deepens the caste bias. Our goal is to eradicate the caste system. Though this wasn’t a conscious decision, my view is that Dalits, STs should contest from everywhere without bothering about whether it is a reserved seat or not.”

While Y Sambasiva Rao, the sitting MLA from Parchur is contesting again on a TDP ticket, the YSRCP has fielded Daggubati Venkateshwara Rao, husband of BJP’s D Purandeswari, in the constituency.

For the upcoming general elections and the Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections on 11 April, the BSP has formed an alliance with the Pawan Kalyan-led Jana Sena Party. Out of the 175 Assembly seats and 25 Parliamentary seats, the BSP will be contesting 21 Assembly and three MP seats. The alliance also includes CPI and CPI(M).

(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute.)

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