10 NCP legislators in touch with VBA, says Ambedkar

Prakash Ambedkar

Prakash Ambedkar  

Invites Raju Shetti to join alliance ahead of Assembly polls

Reiterating that the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) would contest all 288 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly elections, VBA chief Prakash Ambedkar on Tuesday said 10 Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislators were in contact with his party. He refused to elaborate, and said he would speak more on it later this week.

Acknowledging that his ‘social engineering’ experiment in the general elections had proved unsuccessful in many areas, Mr. Ambedkar said the lack of complete support from the Muslim community ultimately proved to be the VBA’s undoing.

Mr. Ambedkar proved to be a major vote-splitter in the Lok Sabha elections, with the VBA cannibalising the traditional Dalit-Muslim vote bank of the Congress-NCP alliance. “While the VBA polled a total 40 lakh votes, the minority community did not side with us except in Aurangabad. Perhaps if the Muslim community had voted for us en bloc, the VBA might have won four Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra instead of just the one,” Mr. Ambedkar said in Akola.

Even then, he said, the minority community is increasingly looking towards the VBA as an alternative to the Congress.

Mr. Ambedkar, who lost from both the Akola and the Solapur Lok Sabha seats, forged the alliance between his Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh and Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) before the general elections with an eye to secure the Dalit-Muslim votes. However, the only VBA candidate to win a seat was Imtiaz Jaleel, a former AIMIM legislator, who beat four-time Shiv Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire in Aurangabad.

Mr. Ambedkar said he had also given an offer to Swabhimani Paksha chief Raju Shetti to join his front, adding that Mr. Shetti would certainly win if he forged an alliance with the VBA before the Assembly elections.

Mr. Shetti, a two-time former MP, suffered a startling defeat in Hatkanangale to the Sena’s Dhairyasheel Mane. He attributed his defeat to the VBA, whose candidate Sayyad Aslam polled 1.23 lakh votes, depriving Mr. Shetti of the crucial support of the backward castes in Hatkanangale.

“We had invited [Mr. Shetti] to join us even before the Lok Sabha elections. I had told him there was no guarantee that he’d win if he went along with the Congress-NCP. Yet, he chose to join hands with them and we were compelled to put up a VBA candidate there,” Mr. Ambedkar said.

However, he said Mr. Shetti “was welcome” to forge an alliance with the VBA for the Assembly elections. “Ultimately, it is he who has to decide with whom to ally,” Mr. Ambedkar said.

The VBA chief had also attempted to reach out to Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), saying the Assembly elections presented “a golden opportunity to ensure the party’s comeback in Maharashtra.”

“The BJP and the Sena have more or less finalised their seat-sharing arrangement, in which the two parties will contest an equal number of seats (135 each) while their allies will get the remaining 18 seats. As the voter does not distinguish between the Sena and the MNS owing to their similar ideologies, the MNS can field its candidates in segments contested by the BJP and grab votes that might have gone to the Sena,” he said.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 1:14:19 PM |

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