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Ending speculation, Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena camp and Prakash Ambedkar’s VBA seal alliance

However, Sharad Pawar-led NCP and Congress yet to signify their ‘assent’ in taking the VBA inside the MVA

January 23, 2023 01:49 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:10 am IST

Uddhav Thackeray (L) announcing his party’s alliance with Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi. Photo: Screenshot via YouTube/Shiv Sena

Uddhav Thackeray (L) announcing his party’s alliance with Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi. Photo: Screenshot via YouTube/Shiv Sena

In what is being projected as a new political alignment in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) and Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) on Monday officially announced their alliance ahead of the State civic polls, ending months of intense speculation.

However, the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress — Mr. Thackeray’s allies in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition — who were not keen on allying with Mr. Ambedkar, have yet to signify their ‘assent’ in taking the VBA inside the MVA.

While both leaders invoked the bonds between their respective grandfathers — Prabhodankar Thackeray and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar — and said the new ‘Shivshakti-Bhimshakti’ had been forged in a bid to “keep democracy alive,” the two leaders remained unclear on the precise arrangement and the nature of their alliance — whether it would be limited to the BMC poll or whether the two parties would contest future elections together.

‘Country First’

Speaking at Ambedkar Bhavan in Mumbai’s Dadar, Mr. Thackeray, attacking the BJP at the Centre and the State, said: “Ambedkar and Thackeray have a historical significance. Both our grandfathers fought the social evils of their times. So, we, the legatees have come together to root out today’s political evils with the idea of Country First.”

Also read | The Shivshakti-Bhimshakti possibility

Mr. Ambedkar said the union between the two parties had been effected to bring about change in the politics of the State.

The VBA, which had allied with the AIMIM in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, had played havoc by cannibalising Dalit-minority votes that traditionally went to the Congress and the NCP, causing damage to both the parties in a number of seats. This has been the prime reason for the wariness on the part of the Congress and the NCP to induct the VBA into the MVA coalition.

Mr. Ambedkar pointedly said his fight with NCP chief Sharad Pawar was “not in the fields,” but on issues of leadership.’

“Currently, only the two of us [Sena-UBT and VBA] have come together…I expect the NCP and the Congress will join us too. We should let bygones be bygones, chart out a new road and work together to prevent the shadow of dictatorship looming over the country,” Mr. Ambedkar said.

When questioned on whether the Sena (UBT’s) alliance with Mr. Ambedkar would cause any rupture within the MVA, Mr. Thackeray said the time had come to think beyond party interests and save the country which was hurtling towards a dictatorship while censuring the ‘negative politics’ of the RSS and the BJP.

“Three years ago, it was being said that the Shiv Sena can never go with Congress and NCP. But after the BJP, our supposed friends, deceived us, we decided to ally with our one-time nemeses — the Congress and the NCP — and successfully ran the MVA government. Remember, that until recently, we [Sena] had openly fought elections against the Congress and the NCP.”  

Mr. Thackeray expressed hope that the VBA would be regarded as an MVA constituent in the near future.

Both leaders did not elaborate on the seat-sharing arrangements between the Sena (UBT) and the VBA, remarking that they would decide it once the election dates were announced.

“We will decide on the nature of our political journey in the future,” said Mr. Thackeray.

Lashing out at the BJP’s double-standards on ‘Hindutva’, Mr. Thackeray said the BJP acted as if only their version of ‘Hindutva’ was correct despite conveniently making political compromises whenever it suited them.

“When [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief] Mohan Bhagwat walks into a mosque, does it mean he has lost his ‘Hindutva’? What about the time when the BJP allied with the PDP in Kashmir? They have no business telling us [Sena-UBT] of having supposedly forsaken our Hindutva because we have allied with ideologically opposed parties,” Mr. Thackeray said, remarking that the BJP, while acting as custodians of the Constitution, was flagrantly violating it.

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