Prakash Ambedkar accuses Maharashtra Congress chief of being in league with the BJP

Mr. Ambedkar wondered if some leaders in the Congress had a ‘secret relationship’ with some BJP leaders in Nagpur and other Lok Sabha constituencies

Updated - April 02, 2024 06:59 am IST

Published - April 02, 2024 05:00 am IST - Pune

Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) President Prakash Ambedkar.

Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) President Prakash Ambedkar. | Photo Credit: ANI

Following the breakdown of seat-sharing talks between the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi(MVA) and the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), VBA chief Prakash Ambedkar has now targeted Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole, alleging that he was in cahoots with leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Even as Mr. Ambedkar continued to take shots at Mr. Patole, the latter’s party colleague – Congressman and Maharashtra Leader of Opposition Vijay Wadettiwar - on Monday said that the Congress could reconsider arrangements on the Akola Lok Sabha seat if the VBA was indeed willing to back the Congress on seven Lok Sabha seats as Mr. Ambedkar had earlier proposed.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Ambedkar wondered if some leaders in the Congress had a ‘secret relationship’ with some BJP leaders in Nagpur and other Lok Sabha constituencies.

“Nana Patole withdrew from contesting the Bhandara-Gondiya seat even after the Congress high command asked him to do so. It seems Mr. Patole does not really want to fight against the BJP. The secret relations between Nana Patole and some BJP leaders are now in the open,” alleged Mr. Ambedkar, in a thinly-veiled allusion to the friendship between Mr. Patole and BJP leader Nitin Gadkari who is the ruling Mahayuti’s candidate for the Nagpur Lok Sabha seat.

Also read | Blow to MVA as Prakash Ambedkar decides to go solo in Lok Sabha elections

Both Nagpur and Bhandara-Gondiya go to elections in the first phase in Maharashtra on April 19.

Casting further aspersions on Mr. Patole, Mr. Ambedkar wondered whether there was a ‘match-fixing’ for Nanded Lok Sabha constituency between Mr. Patole and ex-Congressman-turned-BJP leader Ashok Chavan.

While the VBA has decided to go it alone for the upcoming polls after the breakdown of their parleys with the MVA parties, Mr. Ambedkar had sent a proposal to back the Congress on seven Lok Sabha seats. It has already announced that it will support Vikas Thakre, the Congress’ candidate for the Nagpur Lok Sabha seat, who is pitted against Mr. Gadkari.

“We told the Congress that the VBA was willing to support it on seven seats. Congress superiors told us to lend our support for two seats – that of Nagpur and Kolhapur. The VBA has accordingly announced its backing for Congress candidates in these places,” he said.

Mr. Ambedkar’s latest salvo could cause serious problems for the MVA in general and the Congress in particular in the upcoming election as it could be a prelude to a serious cannibalisation of votes, given that the vote-bases of the Congress and the VBA are similar. In the 2019 General Election, the VBA had seriously queered the pitch for Congress and NCP candidates in at least nine Lok Sabha seats when it had contested the election in alliance with the AIMIM.

Meanwhile, Mr. Patole hit back at Mr. Ambedkar, stating that he manner in which the VBA chief had been “verbally torturing” him for the last two months was “highly improper”.

“I also hail from the deprived section of society and am a farmer’s son… his continued targeting of me is not right. Who is in cahoots with whom will soon be clear in the next couple of days,” Mr. Patole said.

The Congress chief further said the party had never asked for any support from the VBA.

“If he wants to give us support, it is his wish. However, we are fighting the polls as the MVA coalition [which comprises of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena UBT and the Sharad Pawar-led NCP faction]. You cannot give support to one party in the coalition and not the other two,” Mr. Patole said.

Mr. Ambedkar had recently targeted Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut for being the main cause in the breakdown of parleys between the MVA and the VBA. (The VBA had formed an alliance with Mr. Thackeray’s Sena faction last year, an alliance that has since unravelled)

The VBA chief has already announced candidates on 19 Lok Sabha seats, with Mr. Ambedkar naming himself as the candidate for the Akola Lok Sabha seat.

Meanwhile, Congressman Vijay Wadettiwar downplayed the verbal slanging match between Mr. Ambedkar and Mr. Patole.

He further informed that he had spoken with the Congress high command in Delhi and that it could consider ‘different arrangements’ on the Akola seat if the VBA backed Congress candidates on seven seats as it had earlier promised.

The Congress has fielded Prashant Padole against sitting Bhandara-Gondiya MP Sunil Mendhe of the BJP.

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