‘Nothing political’ about meeting with CM Shinde, says Prakash Ambedkar 

Insisting that his late night meeting with the CM was only to discuss a statue of his grandfather B.R. Ambedkar, the VBA chief reiterates that he is committed to the alliance with Uddhav Thackeray’s Sena

January 13, 2023 01:07 am | Updated 08:17 am IST - PUNE

Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief Prakash Ambedkar. File photo

Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief Prakash Ambedkar. File photo | Photo Credit: G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

After Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief Prakash Ambedkar’s late-night meeting with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde sparked a political buzz in Maharashtra, he clarified on Thursday that there was no change in his party’s stance on allying with the opposing Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction.

Stating there was “nothing political” about his meeting with the CM on Wednesday night, Mr. Ambedkar -- the grandson of B.R. Ambedkar -- said that Mr. Shinde had wanted to discuss the issue of the Ambedkar statue slated to come up in the Indu Mills compound in Mumbai. The meeting had lasted over an hour, triggering speculation of a potential alliance between Mr. Ambedkar and the Shinde-led Sena faction.

“We met at 10 p.m. [on Wednesday]…CM Shinde wanted to discuss the issue of the Ambedkar statue. There was nothing political about the meeting. But some sections of the media seem intent of triggering speculation of whether we were planning to ally with Mr. Shinde’s Shiv Sena faction [Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena] and not with Mr. Thackeray,” said the VBA chief.

‘Public announcement needed’

He stressed that the VBA had already expressed its willingness to ally with Mr. Thackeray and that the onus was now on the former CM to make a public announcement formalising the alliance.

Mr. Ambedkar further said that any speculation of the VBA allying with Mr. Shinde would be valid only if the current CM left the BJP’s side.

“Even CM Shinde is aware that the VBA will never ally with those parties [Shinde-led Shiv Sena group] which are allied with the BJP. We have already said we will ally with Uddhav Thackeray to contest future polls, but he [Mr. Thackeray] has to formalise the alliance by a public announcement. I am saying that the Congress and NCP {Thackeray’s coalition partners] will ditch him... so he must take a decision soon on allying with us,” Mr. Ambedkar said.

After Mr. Shinde split the Shiv Sena with his revolt and toppled Mr. Thackeray’s three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government, a proposed alliance between the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) and Mr. Ambedkar’s VBA ahead of the civic polls has long been on the cards. While both factions have strongly indicated that the alliance is on, a formal announcement is pending, with sources pointing to the reluctance of the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress (Mr. Thackeray’s MVA partners) in taking the VBA on board.

‘Congress, NCP against alliance’

“Our [Mr. Thackeray’s faction and VBA] alliance is done. We are very clear on it and there is no problem regarding the seat-sharing arrangement as well… But where is the public commitment? Till now, there has only been a commitment between the respective parties within four walls,” said Mr. Ambedkar.

While Mr. Thackeray was eager to get the Congress and the NCP too as part of a mega-alliance against the BJP, Mr. Ambedkar remarked that he clearly foresaw the Congress and NCP not wishing to forge a union with the VBA.

“Uddhav Thackeray wants to take Congress and NCP along on this [alliance with VBA] and make the [public] announcement together with them… But I know the Congress and Sharad Pawar all too well. They will ditch him [Mr. Thackeray]. Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole recently said that the Congress would fight the polls alone. So, I have urged Mr. Thackeray not to wait for them and seal our alliance,” Mr. Ambedkar said.

The VBA chief, however, said that Mr. Thackeray would probably keep on trying to get his MVA allies on board until the announcement of the civic polls election date was made by the Election Commission.

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