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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

VBA, MNS may dent bigger players in Maharashtra

VBA has parted ways with its Lok Sabha ally, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, which won the alliance’s only Lok Sabha seat: Aurangabad. But the party is banking on its traditional support base among backward castes and Dalits.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 12, 2019 02:55 IST
Naresh Kamath
Naresh Kamath
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
VBA is headed by BR Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, who rose to prominence in the aftermath of caste clashes at Maharashtra’s Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018 that killed one person and triggered statewide protests.
VBA is headed by BR Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, who rose to prominence in the aftermath of caste clashes at Maharashtra’s Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018 that killed one person and triggered statewide protests. (Rahul Raut/HT PHOTO))
         

The Maharashtra assembly elections is being seen by many as a straight contest between two alliances. But there are two non-allied players, the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), who have the potential to upend poll calculations in many seats and hurt major players.

The MNS will contest 105 seats while the VBA is contesting 274.

The VBA is headed by BR Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, who rose to prominence in the aftermath of caste clashes at Maharashtra’s Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018 that killed one person and triggered statewide protests. The outfit spoiled the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance’s chances in as many as eight constituencies in the 2019 general elections by polling at least 100,000 votes. In each case, the number of votes garnered by the VBA was higher than the victory margin of the eventual winner.

To be sure, the VBA has parted ways with its Lok Sabha ally, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, which won the alliance’s only Lok Sabha seat: Aurangabad. But the party is banking on its traditional support base among backward castes and Dalits. In the Lok Sabha elections, the newly formed outfit polled roughly 4.1 million votes, roughly 7.6% of the total votes polled in the state and only behind the two major alliances

“Though the VBA’s strength has depleted, it still retains the potential to damage the Congress-NCP even now,” said political analyst Hemant Desai.

The votes polled by VBA candidates led to defeat of two former chief ministers, Ashok Chavan in Nanded and Sushilkumar Shinde in Solapur.

Earlier this year, talks between the VBA and the Congress-NCP broke down after a disagreement over seat sharing.

Noted Marathi writer Laxman Mane, who quit the VBA recently, said the VBA held a bigger threat for the Congress-NCP combine because the outfit had indirectly benefited the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance in some seats. “The VBA candidates are still in the position to get more than 10,000 votes in several constituencies. This is enough to upset the Congress-NCP calculations and ensure the win for the ruling alliance,” said Mane.

Ambedkar said he should not be held accountable for the decline of the Congress-NCP combine. “I am not there to ensure the survival of the Congress and their allies. It is because of the Congress and NCP that my candidates were defeated in the Lok Sabha polls. If they were interested in securing secular votes, they should have agreed to my offer and taken 144 seats which I offered them,” he said.

The other potential spoiler is the MNS, which jolted the saffron alliance by winning 13 seats in the 2009 assembly elections but has faltered since. This time, the party has entered into an arrangement with the Congress-NCP but experts say its strength has diminished.

“Following the crushing defeat in the 2014 assembly and 2017 civic polls as well as large scale defection of its leaders, the MNS is a demoralised force.. It has made some seat adjustments with the NCP but its impact will be very marginal,”opined noted political commentator Prakash Bal. In 2014, the party started by Shiv Sena founded Bal Thackeray’s nephew Raj Thackeray won just one seat

In the Lok Sabha polls, the MNS did not contest but Raj Thackeray campaigned against the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. But results showed that his impact was very limited. This time around, most senior leaders of the party have opted to not fight the polls.

“It is well thought out strategy by Rajsaheb to encourage the new blood to enter the political fray and we all seniors are working for them,” said Bala Nandgaonkar, adding that the party was still strong at the grassroot level.

First Published: Oct 11, 2019 23:31 IST

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