With the Republican Party of India cosying up to the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance of late, questions are being raised over the success of the proposed alliance.
Analysts are divided over how this new bonhomie between such ideologically diverse entities will translate into electoral benefit for the saffron combine in the municipal polls.
For the past three decades, the RPI and the Shiv Sena have been at loggerheads over issues such as the renaming of the North Maharashtra University and atrocities over Dalits.
“The Sena is desperate and is willing to join hands with anyone who can help them tackle this government. On the other hand, Ramdas Athawale feels betrayed by the NCP-Congress and is looking to revive his own fortunes,” political analyst Prakash Bal said.
Although Dalits represent nearly 15% of the electoral vote in the state and will play an important role in the civic polls, the number of votes Athawale will bring into the Sena-BJP’s kitty is still to be decided.
“These parties are ideologically poles apart. It will be very difficult for the RPI cadre to accept this new alliance,” Bal said, adding that the jury was still out on whether Athawale would be able to wean Dalit votes away from the Congress-NCP.
Many believe that apart from Athawale, the community will not gain from the alliance. “We have voted for various parties. But do you think that a Sena or BJP supporter could vote for an RPI candidate?” asked Pramod Sakhare, a Dalit activist.
Athawale claimed there was nothing opportunistic about the move. “We are joining hands with the Sena-BJP to help rid this state of a corrupt government,” he said.
Dalit activist Manoj Jadhav said the alliance will give them an identity of their own. “Parties, particularly the Congress, have taken Dalit votes for granted. This tie-up will be a warning to the Congress-NCP,” he said.
Once regarded as the voice of the state’s Dalit community, the RPI has broken into 12 factions, the most powerful is led by Athawale. The RPI (A) presently has three seats in the civic body. However, there are 20-25 constituencies in the civic body where the Dalit vote is likely to play the deciding factor. This can be significant for the Sena-BJP since a few hundred seats can tilt the balance in their favour.