After Sena chief Thackeray, it was senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde’s turn to woo Dalits. Burying past differences, he shared the dais with the Republican Party of India (RPI) leader Ramdas Athavale at a public meeting on Thursday at Ghatkopar, the irony of the venue notwithstanding.
Ten dalits were killed in police firing at Ramabai Nagar in Ghatkopar during Munde’s tenure as home minister in 1997.
In a move to woo Dalits, Munde said, “Time has come to form an alliance with us as the Dalits have not benefited from the current ruling parties.”
“History is witness to the fact that any alliance supported by the Dalits is catapulted to power,” he said.
However, Athavale, who is currently in the state of wilderness following his exit from the Congress-NCP alliance, did not commit himself openly but hinted at a possible alliance with the saffron party.
“After all that has happened, I am forced to think about this proposal,” said Athavale. He regretted the lack of unity among the various factions of the Republican Party of India (RPI).
The deceased were part of the crowd protesting against the desecration of the statue of Dr Ambedkar. Dalits had demanded Munde’s resignation for supporting the firing while Athavale was assaulted and chased away when he came to visit the grieving families. Dalits voted overwhelmingly against the saffron alliance in the next elections, which was one of the major reasons of their exit from power.