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VBA chief toughens stance against Congress, gives seven-day ‘ultimatum‘ to decide on pre-poll alliance

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Mumbai: Toughening his stance over allying with the Congress and the I.N.D.I.A. bloc for the 2024 general election, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief Prakash Ambedkar on Monday remarked that if the Congress did not respond to the VBA’s offer of alliance within a week, then the party would contest all the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra on its own. 

Giving reason behind his ‘ultimatum’ to the Congress, Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, disclosed that while Congress leaders had been claiming they had yet to receive any alliance proposal from the VBA, his party had, in fact, written to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on September 1 when the party and its allies were in Mumbai for the third I.N.D.I.A. bloc meeting. 

The VBA president further disclosed that an e-mail from VBA spokesperson Advocate Priyadarshi Telang to Kharge was written to request the Congress to debunk the on-going speculation of the VBA being sent an invitation for the I.N.D.I.A. alliance meeting in Mumbai. 

“The second objective was to convey that the VBA’s doors are open for an alliance. It has been almost a month since the e-mail was sent and made public on Telang’s X (formerly Twitter) handle, but there has been no response from Kharge or any of his associates in the Congress,” remarked Ambedkar.

Prakash Ambedkar demanded to know whether his party was ever going to receive a reply from the Congress.

“If not, then the Congress should explain to the people of Maharashtra why it does not want to involve the representation of Vanchit’s and Bahujan’s in the alliance. It should explain why a party (the VBA), which garnered 6.98 and 5.57% vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Legislative Assembly elections, has not been invited or included in the I.N.D.I.A. alliance,” added Ambedkar. 

Prakash Ambedkar’s VBA is allied with Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena (UBT) in Maharashtra. The Sena (UBT), is in turn, allied with the Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led NCP faction as part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition. 

Stating that his alliance with Thackeray remained firm, Ambedkar said the “roadblock” was that the seat-sharing arrangements between the Sena (UBT), the Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led NCP had not yet begun. 

“While the VBA and the Sena (UBT) have full confidence in each other, the roadblock is that Uddhav Thackeray has not had any discussions with Congress or Sharad Pawar’s NCP on seat-sharing. I believe Congress is boycotting meetings called by NCP to discuss the seat-sharing between the three parties. I do not see any agreement or formula between the three MVA parties happening soon. Only when the Sena (UBT) sorts out its seat-sharing with Congress and NCP, can we make our seat-sharing arrangements with Thackeray,” he said.  

Prakash Ambedkar further remarked, “hence, the VBA has decided to prepare for all 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra keeping in mind the worst-case scenarios possible.” He informed that he, along with his party-leaders, would begin statewide tours soon beginning with Latur district, followed by Beed and Nashik. The VBA chief, a former three-time MP, has announced his intention to contest from Akola, from where he had twice been elected to Parliament in the past. 

Despite forming an alliance with Thackeray in February this year, Ambedkar has not been taken into the MVA coalition owing to the wariness of the Congress and Pawar’s NCP faction. 

The real reason for their averseness to inducting the VBA is that in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Ambedkar’s party, then allied with the Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM, had played havoc by fragmenting the Ambedkarite-minority community votes that traditionally went to the Congress and the NCP, causing the defeat of Congress candidates in at least nine seats.    

Last week, Ambedkar had heavily criticized the Congress by remarking that the party reportedly used Dalits, tribals, Muslims and OBCs like “tissue paper” to be used and thrown away – a fact that has not endeared him to the Congress leadership. 


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