Even as over 2,000 Dalits converged at Chaityabhoomi near Shivaji Park on Thursday to celebrate the birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar, the Republican Party of India’s plans to join hands with the saffron brigade seemed to have overshadowed all other agendas.
RPI chief Ramdas Athawale admitted that they were in talks with the Shiv Sena for a tie-up.
Devoid of any political power, members of the community say they would be happy if the RPI was given a sizeable number of seats by the saffron combine in the municipal polls.
“We don’t mind the coalition if the Dalit public will benefit,” said 56-year-old Pravin Pahurkar, who came from Buldhana. “If more seats are given to RPI it will help the state’s development as a whole. The Shiv Sena did not consider us earlier. But we don’t mind. It is politics after all.”
The Sena is trying its best to retain its position as the ruling party in the civic body during the municipal election in 2012. RPI, on the other hand, has been out of power since they broke away from the Congress.
Most Dalits, especially the youth, feel that their leaders need to take corrective steps and to create their independent identity.
The party is even more vulnerable since it has witnessed many splits over the years. “Despite having nearly 30% Dalit population, we are never heard. Our leaders are busy fighting and keep separating from their roots. Many have joined other parties and are working for other causes,” said Gautam Kasare. “We are also from Maharashtra and speak Marathi. But we have never been given importance.”
However, the RPI chief claimed that no concrete decision had been taken. “The alliance with the NCP and the Congress did not benefit our community. We are still thinking about joining the Sena. But we are keeping in mind the people and some oppositions that came up,” said Athawale.
“Ambedkar had many dreams for the community, but they will come true only when a Dalit holds an important position like the chief minister’s post,” said Neeraj Nakashe, who came form Nagpur to visit the sacred memorial.