Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi president Prakash Ambedkar on Monday said he would “pressurize” his ally Uddhav Thackeray into choosing between the VBA and the Congress-Sharad Pawar alliance.
As this transpired, Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena faction said it would welcome Mr. Ambedkar if the VBA wished to join.
Ambedkar rebuffs BJP
While Shinde camp spokesman, MLA Sanjay Shirsat, dangled an alliance ‘offer’ before Mr. Ambedkar, the VBA chief said there was no question of holding parleys with CM Shinde as long as he was allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Speaking in Latur, Mr. Ambedkar, who has already begun preparing for the 2024 Lok Sabha election, hinted that Mr. Thackeray would soon have to decide on the alliance with the VBA by resolving seat-sharing arrangements with the Sena (UBT)’s allies within the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA).
Taking jibes at the Congress and NCP, Mr. Ambedkar said: “On the question of our [VBA’s] alliance with Uddhav Thackeray, we have had talks but two ‘priests’ are coming in way of the marriage between the VBA and the Sena (UBT). They are the Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led NCP. These parties are unable reach an understanding amongst themselves nor with Uddhav Thackeray.”
Accusing the Congress and the NCP of keeping the MVA alliance hanging by not discussing seat-sharing arrangements, Mr. Ambedkar said it was not clear who the Congress and Sharad Pawar-led NCP were working for.
“The day our suspicions gain credence, I will not shirk from accusations. The two parties may treat this as a threat. The Congress and NCP should say clearly whether they are forming an alliance with the Sena (UBT). If they do not finalize their seat-sharing quickly, then the VBA will pressurize Uddhav Thackeray to choose between the Congress-NCP (faction) and us,” said Mr. Ambedkar, who is the grandson of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.
Despite nominally forming an alliance with Mr. Thackeray in February this year, Mr. Ambedkar has not been accepted into the MVA coalition owing to the wariness of the Congress and Mr. Pawar’s NCP faction.
VBA cut votes in 2019
The prime reason for their caution in inducting the VBA is that in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Mr. Ambedkar’s party, allied with Owaisi’s AIMIM, had played havoc by fragmenting Ambedkarite-minority community votes that traditionally went to the Congress and the NCP, causing the defeats of Congress candidates in at least nine seats.
Relations between Mr. Ambedkar and Congress were further strained recently after the VBA claimed it had written to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on September 1 and sought to join the opposition INDIA bloc, but never received any response from the Congress.
Since then, Mr. Ambedkar has said the VBA would contest all 48 Lok Sabha seats on its own.
“Our aim is to defeat the BJP in the State. I am not too concerned about the INDIA bloc alliance. But the MVA parties must quickly resolve the seat-sharing among themselves. Unless they do so, the VBA cannot proceed with seat-sharing discussions with Mr. Thackeray,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Shirsat predicted that Uddhav Thackeray’s alliance with Mr. Ambedkar would break down soon and that the VBA chief would then show his real strength in the elections.
“However hard Uddhav Thackeray tries, he will never be able to induct the VBA into the MVA coalition as the Congress and the NCP fear Mr. Ambedkar,” said Mr. Shirsat.
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