2019 Lok Sabha elections: All party candidates head to Chaityabhoomi in Mumbai
With Dalit votes likely to be divided during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, the 128th birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar on Sunday saw parties trying to woo Dalit voters.
While Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of the architect of the Constitution, floated the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) by taking All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) on board, another key Dalit leader and union minister Ramdas Athawale stood firm by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Smaller factions of the Republican Party of India (RPI) have joined hands with the Congress-NCP.
The Congress-NCP combine is believed to be most affected by the formation of the VBA, which is contesting all 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
On Sunday, apart from the Congress and NCP, the ruling saffron parties too paid tribute to Ambedkar, revered among Dalits for his pivotal role in their emancipation. The BJP candidate from Mumbai North East Manoj Kotak paid tribute to Ambedkar at Chaityabhoomi in Dadar, where his ashes were interred.
Top Congress-NCP leaders like Milind Deora, Eknath Gaikwad and Sachin Ahir visited Chaityabhoomi. Eknath Gaikwad went to Indu Mills, where the proposed Ambedkar memorial is being built. He accused the BJP-led government of delaying the project. “There is absolutely no movement on the project and the BJP government is just fooling the people,” accused Gaikwad.
This was countered by Athawale, who said the project is being implemented in the right way. “We have appointed the best firms to execute the project and it will be ready by the end of 2020. I am taking periodic reviews ,” said Athawale.
The Congress has alleged that Athawale and Prakash were misleading Dalits for their political gains. On Friday, Congress MP Bhalchandra Mungekar said there was a large section of Dalits, which would vote for the Congress. “Prakash is deliberately fighting on all 48 seats to split Dalit votes and help the BJP-led alliance. Despite sincere attempts for the tie-up by the Congress, Prakash did not respond. Similary, Athawale has been going with the BJP just to secure the Rajya Sabha seat and the union ministership,” he added.
According to political expert Pratap Asbe, “The Congress wants to stop the split of votes and hence will exploit every occasion to win back the Dalits. Since campaigning is going on, this is also part of it.”
Athawale said, “I demanded the seat and ministership as an ally and there is nothing wrong in it”. Meanwhile, the RPI (A) announced it will contest 76 seats to help BJP win more seats. It will contest 15 seats in Uttar Pradesh followed by 7 each in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Other states where RPI will contest include Rajasthan, Assam, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal.