It is to be seen what mutual benefits Thackeray and VBA president yield in a pact that seems to have upset the NCP and Congress
VBA chief Prakash Ambedkar and Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray joined hands for the forthcoming elections. Pic/Twitter
His firebrand reputation precedes Prakash Ambedkar, a volatile critic of the parties that he thinks have affected not only his original ‘parent party’—the Republican Party of India (RPI), but also the outfits he had been floating ever since the RPI split into several factions many decades ago. He had alliances with the RPI factions and the unified Congress in the past, and later experimented by expanding his party by joining hands with non-Dalits and Muslims. Recently, he realised that the Shiv Sena (UBT) has reshaped its Hindutva, and aligned with the Uddhav Thackeray-led party for the forthcoming elections. But things haven’t stopped there from Ambedkar’s side. He has been launching a frontal attack on the Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, his political bête noire, accusing the Maha Vikas Aghadi’s (MVA) architect of siding with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The accusation hasn’t gone down well with the NCP and Sena (UBT) leaders such as Sanjay Raut, who himself played a good role in stitching the MVA together in 2019. The Congress, too, isn’t happy about Ambedkar’s entry in their scheme of things. Three years since the formation of MVA, the political atmosphere has changed completely. Thackeray has lost 40 MLAs, his party is divided and the factions are fighting to seize control of the parent organisation. Thackeray’s pact with Ambedkar is an instrument to consolidate his position in the BMC and other elections, the Assembly and Lok Sabha included.
However, Ambedkar’s tirade against Pawar and the Congress is proving to be a spanner in the MVA wheel which needed to be greased to roll out with full steam. Instead, the steam is being used to tame one another, especially in the wake of Ambedkar’s rocking statements. The NCP and Congress are not willing to take Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) along to expand the MVA. They have apparently restricted the VBA to the Thackeray camp, which will have to take care of its partner in sharing seats, and also keep trying to convince the MVA partners to absorb Ambedkar despite his strong criticism.
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Ambedkar has proved his nuisance value time and again; last time in 2019 when he shaped the VBA and took the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections by storm. Though he lost Lok Sabha polls, the VBA ate into the anti-BJP vote share at many seats, thus handing the BJP and Shiv Sena (united) advantage. Ambedkar’s agenda of setting up people from the deprived sections (across communities) in the elections is expected to be continued. He says that around 200 families control the state politics, and that needs to be changed by giving new people opportunity.
And then Ambedkar has taken a stand totally opposite of the non-BJP parties. He says the government is not using investigative agencies. “If I were Modi, I would do the same. One has to be clean to avoid action and face it, if taken,” he said the other day, putting a question mark on the leaders who have been facing the agencies and are under their radar. His statement has upset many, including those in his new ally, the Sena (UBT). What will Thackeray do now? And how far will his alliance with the VBA go? That’s the question, if Thackeray still wants to not risk the NCP and the Congress going away because of Ambedkar. Thackeray hasn’t reacted to Ambedkar’s reactions and no-holds-barred statements yet. If he doesn’t speak up anytime soon, the politicians will be free to interpret his silence their own ways.
One has to see what mutual benefits Thackeray and Ambedkar yield by going together against the wishes of MVA’s two principal partners. Knowing Ambedkar, he is not expected to back down, blunt attacks or quit his habit of calling spade a spade.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore
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