Shivshakti-Bhimshakti: Will the state witness Thackeray-Ambedkar alliance soon?
The event, which also has political connotations due to the likely social and political rainbow alliance that may be shaped by it, will take place at the Shivaji Mandir in Dadar West
Mumbai: In what may turn out to be a watershed moment in state politics, the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) and the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) of Prakash Ambedkar are warming up to each other.
On November 20, Shiv Sena (UBT) president Uddhav Thackeray and Prakash Ambedkar, who is the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and a former Lok Sabha MP, will share the dais at the re-launch of a website on ‘Prabodhankar’ Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, the social reformer and journalist, who was a doyen of the non-Brahmin movement in Maharashtra. Prabodhankar is the grandfather of Uddhav Thackeray.
The event, which also has political connotations due to the likely social and political rainbow alliance that may be shaped by it, will take place at the Shivaji Mandir in Dadar West.
Incidentally, Prabodhankar and Dr Ambedkar were collaborators in the cause of social reform. The two had joined hands in efforts like the launch of the Navratri utsav in Mumbai in 1926 to counter the Brahmin-dominated Ganesh utsav. Prabodhankar had also ensured Ambedkar’s support to the Samyukta Maharashtra struggle.
Prakash Ambedkar confirmed that he would be present at the event. “(If the Shiv Sena) takes the position espoused by Prabodhankar Thackeray, then we have no problems in going with them,” he said.
In 2003, Uddhav Thackeray, who had just been anointed as the working president of the Shiv Sena, and the heir apparent of his father—Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, had reached out to the Buddhist Dalits, especially those who supported the various factions of the Republican Party of India (RPI). Incidentally, this too was at a ceremony to unveil Prabodhankar’s portrait in the University of Mumbai.
This ‘Shivshakti-Bhimshakti’ initiative was noteworthy as the Shiv Sena had a bristling relationship with the Buddhist Dalits, who are the most militant section of the Dalit community. The Shiv Sena also had a significant presence of Hindu Dalits, who are socially and politically at odds with the Buddhist Dalits. The move met with some success.
A senior Shiv Sena (UBT) leader admitted that they were looking at striking a social coalition with the VBA. “There is a chance that the VBA and the Shiv Sena may come together. This is more significant (than Shivshakti-Bhimshakti). Two grandsons are coming together,” the leader explained.
This is also an attempt to broadbase the Shiv Sena’s constituency and shape it into a pan-Maharashtra regional force in the true sense.
Prakash Ambedkar has an influence cutting across sections like other backwards and Muslims. Other leaders of the RPI have a base largely restricted to Buddhist Dalits, who are estimated to form 7% of the population.
In 2019, the VBA’s presence in the ring was blamed for the defeat of the Congress and NCP in the Lok Sabha polls.