Dalit voters, who have historically swayed between the Congress and the Republican Party of India (RPI), appear to have played a role in propelling the Shiv Sena-BJP combine into the numero uno position in the civic body this election.
The biggest sufferers of Dalit antagonism seem to have been the Congress and the RPI.
Dalits constitute nearly 15-18% of Mumbai’s electorate. Their vote plays a decisive role in nearly 60 constituencies in the city.
“The Congress-NCP combine seemed to have been taking Dalit voters for granted. Many thought it made sense to give the Sena-BJP a chance,” said Dalit activist Pramod Sakhare. The Sena appears to have done well in the Dalit pockets of Wadala, Worli and Mankhurd.
“Dalit votes played a decisive role in getting us where we are,” Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray admitted. He had taken a gamble when he got Ramdas Athawale’s RPI on board, but the Sena will now look at a long-term alliance with the RPI.
Dalit voters also seemed to have found a new alternative in Raj Thackeray’s MNS. Pockets such as Kannamwar Nagar, Kamraj Nagar and Ramabai Nagar voted resoundingly in favour of the party. “People are tired of the old options. Many felt it was time we backed a fresh, dynamic entity like Raj,” said Santosh Sonawane, an activist from Ramabai Nagar.
The RPI, which contested 29 seats, managed to win only one. In 2007 it had won three seats. Putting up a brave face, Athawale claimed the alliance had come to power despite RPI’s poor show. “Ambedkar followers played a huge role in ensuring the defeat of the Congress-NCP. We need to contemplate on why we performed so badly.”
Political analysts believe people turned their backs on the RPI as they thought it was compromising on its ideology.