Lok Sabha elections 2019: Ramdas Athawale sends a message to BJP, says recognise RPI role
Republican Party of India (RPI) chief Ramdas Athawale, a Union minister and an ally of the National Democratic Alliance, has said if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not offer his party a seat from Uttar Pradesh and Assam for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, a message could go out that it does not walk the talk on Dalit empowerment.
Athawale’s party was not offered a seat from Maharashtra, where the BJP and the Shiv Sena stitched up an alliance last week.
“There is anger against the party among some Dalit sections; if they do not give a chance to my party it will cement the perception that the party only used us before elections,” Athawale said.
“Modiji [PM Narendra Modi] has worked very hard and we would like to support him and ensure he gets a second term’. But, the BJP must recognise the support RPI has drummed up for it,” he added.
Athawale said he has spoken to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to consider giving RPI at least three seats in the politically crucial state that sends 80 MPs to Parliament, and to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal for fielding an RPI candidate from Barpeta, which is represented in the Lok Sabha by Sirajuddin Ajmal. “There is a large Dalit population in the state [UP] and my party stands a good chance to counter the combined force of the Mahagathbandhan [an alliance between the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party], In Barpeta the BJP has no chance of winning against Ajmal; but RPI has some support,” he said. In 2011, RPI announced it will join the NDA. The party does not have an election symbol and its presence is largely confined to Maharashtra, where Dalit population is 11% but the party’s vote share is less than 1% . On whether he has sought a meeting with the BJP functionaries to sort out seat-sharing issues, Athawale said he has spoken to Maharashtra CM Devender Fadnavis.
“I played a key role in getting the BJP and Sena to overcome their differences and contest together. I feel there should be no ghamand [ego] among allies. I hope the party will reconsider and prevail upon the Sena to give RPI the seat we are asking for,” he said. A BJP functionary, who asked not to be named, said the party will not comment on Athawale ’s statement, but concerns of all allies will be dealt with within the party forum.