NCP MLC joins Shiv Sena, calls Maha's ruling alliance anti-dalit

NCP MLC Ram Pandagale today joined Shiv Sena ahead of Maharashtra assembly elections due in October, accusing party chief Sharad Pawar of being anti-dalit and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar a "dictator". He also blamed the state's ruling Congress-NCP combine for the "woeful condition" of dalits in the state.

"Ajit Pawar is a dictator who calls the shots in the party and we have been putting up with his behaviour for a long time. Anyone with self respect cannot tolerate this kind of behaviour. Hence we decided to join Shiv Sena," Pandagale, who joined Shiv Sena in the presence of party chief Uddhav Thackeray, said.

Scores of NCP workers also joined the saffron party with Pandagale, a dalit leader, from suburban Mumbai. "The Congress-NCP combine is responsible for the pathetic condition of dalits in the state. They have committed atrocities on dalits across Maharashtra. They first spark off trouble for us (dalits) and then skillfully shift the blame on other parties. I and my thousands of supporters could not take this anymore," he told reporters.

Pandagale also claimed that NCP had given him ticket to contest the upcoming assembly elections from suburban Malad but he no longer wanted to be associated with the party. "They gave me a ticket in their very first list of nominees...But who's interested?" he said. Pandagale alleged that NCP chief Sharad Pawar was anti-dalit and "not clean". "Sharad Pawar too is anti-dalit... there have been allegations of corruption against him...he is not clean," he said. Asked if he would contest the assembly poll on Shiv Sena ticket, Pandagale said, "every party worker dreams of contesting elections."

When contacted, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said Pandagale "lacks credibility", while Congress dismissed his allegations as "mudslinging". "Earlier last year, Pandagale had made similar comments for which he later apologised. Since he wants to switch over, he has to give some reasons and hence is making such allegations against party leaders," Malik said.

State Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said," just because he (Pandagale) is joining some other party, he is throwing mud at us. Congress is committed to the uplift of the backward classes, dalits and minorities. It manifest in our actions," Sawant said.

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