Congress to chalk out strategy to win back Dalit support, deal with VBA
Taking a cue from the major dent caused to the party by the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) in the Lok Sabha elections, the Maharashtra Congress has formed a committee of its Dalit leaders to deliberate and chalk out a strategy to win back this vote bank.
The committee, headed by former chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde, held its first meeting on Sunday and decided to keep an alternate plan ready, assuming the VBA is unlikely to join hands with the Congress for the state elections. Other committee members include former member of Parliament (MP) Eknath Gaikwad, MP Bhalchandra Mungekar, former state minister Varsh Gaikwad, Nitin Raut and legislator Sharad Ranpise.
Shinde lost the Lok Sabha polls from his hometown of Solapur to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate. Ambedkar, who also contested from Solapur, split the Opposition votes by polling over one lakh votes.
Around eight other Congress and Nationalist Congress candidates in the Lok Sabha elections suffered similar defeats. The VBA polled more than 7% votes and ensured a major setback to the alliance convened by Congress and NCP. Realising the loss, efforts were initiated to take VBA on board. Both parties had attempted to convince Ambedkar to join hands with them, but the latter turned them down.
“Though we would like to take Ambedkar in our alliance, he has made up his mind. He has already announced he will field more than 100 candidates. With this attitude, the discussion for the alliance is unlikely to head in any direction. We have decided to keep our plan ready to reduce his influence in the Assembly polls. We have a number of Dalit leaders with sizeable influence in their respective communities. They will be asked to put in extra efforts to galvanise the Dalit voters who parted ways with the Congress,” said a party leader.
The Congress will propose talks with Ambedkar to at least send a message to the community that it was positive about the alliance to avoid a division of votes. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Congress has convened a two-day review meeting of the district presidents and district level office bearers to take stock of the Lok Sabha debacle and decide a strategy for the Assembly polls