With months to go for the Lok Sabha polls, hectic parleys are underway between parties looking to forge alliances. But one potential alliance that seems to be at a deadlock is the one between the Maharashtra Congress and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) Chief Prakash Ambedkar.
“Ball Now In Congress’ Court”
Despite weeks of negotiation, Congress has been unable to formalise an alliance with the Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA). The VBA comprises Prakash Ambedkar’s BBM and Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
The talks hit a roadblock after Congress refused to share 12 seats with the VBA. Sources say, Congress was unwilling to part with more than 6 seats to seal the alliance, which is a deal breaker for the Prakash Ambedkar-led party.
"“What we have said is that, the seats that they have lost in the last three parliamentary elections continuously and those constituencies where they don’t have a candidate, they should share those constituencies with us. Therefore, what should be shared with us would be the prerogative of the Congress party. The ball is now in Congress’ court. If they want the alliance to take place, they have to give a formula and the agenda for bringing RSS into the constitutional fold.”" - Prakash Ambedkar, Chief, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM)
But Ambedkar isn’t waiting for Congress to come around. The Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) has already started preparing to contest all the 48 Lok Sabha seats from Maharashtra by itself.
"“We are prepared for 48 (seats) and it will be between us and BJP, that is, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi and BJP. The Congress will be way far behind.”" - Prakash Ambedkar, Chief, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM)
Could VBA Eat Into Congress’ Dalit-Muslim Vote Share?
This could definitely be a setback for the Congress that has been patching together a grand alliance as the VBA could eat into the Congress’ potential Dalit and Muslim vote share. According to the survey conducted by Centre for Study of Developing Societies, 86 percent Muslims and 33 percent Dalits voted for the Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. This could reduce if they fail to win over Prakash Ambedkar.
The AIMIM has already made a mark for itself in Muslim-dominated pockets across Maharashtra over the last five years. During the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly election, the AIMIM which fielded 25 candidates, won two seats. Since then, the Asaduddin Owaisi-led party bagged 25 seats at the Aurangabad Municipal election and four seats at the Dhule civic polls. A number of their successful candidates belonged to the Dalit community.
Ambedkar’s BBM, meanwhile, had bagged one seat in the 2014 Assembly polls and holds sway in Akola and Nanded districts.
There are five Lok Sabha seats where the VBA is likely to have the most significant impact: Akola, Aurangabad, Nanded, Solapur and Mumbai South.
With an alliance with Mayawati’s BSP, that has a sizeable vote bank in Vidarbha, already ruled out and another chunk of Dalit votes being diverted towards Ramdas Athawale’s Republican Party of India (A), a massive split in Congress’ Dalit vote share is inevitable.
Congress Hasn’t Given Up On Alliance With Ambedkar Yet
Congress, meanwhile, has made it clear that there will be no alliance with Owaisi’s AIMIM.
"“We will definitely not tie up with them (AIMIM) as we have categorically stated. As far as Prakash Ambedkarji is concerned and the proposition that he has made, we can only say that it is unfortunate. How can he have a tie-up with a party that is communal so it will definitely help the cause of BJP.”" - Sachin Sawant, Spokesperson, Maharashtra Congress
Sources say that senior Congress leaders are still trying to work out an understanding with Prakash Ambedkar.
“We are appealing to the wisdom of Mr Ambedkar and other people and what we are saying is that our ultimate goal is to defeat BJP and whoever can win the seat should be backed, that should be the goal. Rather than how many seats any party contests, the objective should be who can win the seats,” added Sawant.
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