Concerned about the impact of Republican Party of India (RPI) leader Ramdas Athawale’s alliance with the saffron combine on the upcoming Mumbai civic polls, a jittery Congress has now planned to befriend other Dalit leaders.
The party is looking for an alliance with Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr BR Ambedkar and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) leader, and Dalit leader Jogendra Kawade.
Sources in the Congress said an initial internal assessment had shown that the new saffron alliance could affect 15 to 17 seats in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and swing the results of the polls.
“It will have an impact on a sizeable number of seats, which were seen as traditionally ours. We hope to counter this effect by joining hands with other Dalit leaders,” said a Congress leader requesting anonymity.
While the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is also thinking on the same lines, it claims that its own Dalit leadership is strong enough to counter any Athawale effect.
“Congress has not approached me till now. The NCP has called me for a political discussion.” said Ambedkar. “I am open to having an alliance because it is necessary to have an alternative for the people in the upcoming civic polls.”
While the RPI led by Athawale presently has only three seats in the BMC, there are 20-25 constituencies in the civic body where the Dalit vote is likely to play the deciding factor.
On the whole, Dalits represent 15% of electoral vote in the state and will play an important role in the civic polls of other cities such as Thane and Nashik.
Political analysts feel that in the absence of an united Dalit platform, opportunism is dictating alliances. “For many, Athawale’s tie up with the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combine will feel like a betrayal. So I don't know how much of an impact Athawale will have. But Congress will get an upper hand by allying with Ambedkar. He doesn’t have any presence in the city, but his name could do the trick,” said Surendra Jondhale, political analyst.
“However, the Dalit youth is smitten by Raj Thackeray and this could also have some impact on the civic polls,” he added.