Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) and Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM, seem to be playing a game of who blinks first. Just days after the former allies announced their split after disagreement over seat-sharing for the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections, both seem to be waiting for the other to initiate talks once again.
The alliance was called off by AIMIM after the party’s Maharashtra unit president, Imtiyaz Jaleel released a statement saying that the VBA had agreed to allot only 8 seats to AIMIM in the upcoming polls. He stated that this was ‘unacceptable and unjustified’.
‘Initiate Talks Through The Right Channels’
Speaking to The Quint, VBA Chief Prakash Ambedkar stated that if the AIMIM wants to resume an alliance, they would have to approach the VBA through the right channels to initiate talks.
"“They (AIMIM) have not fought more than 8 seats in their own state. They don’t have a semblance of organisation in Maharashtra. Imtiyaz (Jaleel) controls two constituencies and we control four constituencies here. None of the AIMIM cadre is basically with AIMIM that we have seen in the Assembly.”" - Prakash Ambedkar, Chief, VBA
“What we were insisting upon was that we will sit together, chalk out the seats of the Muslim constituencies and then share the seats within ourselves. That was what we had discussed even with Asaduddin Owaisi. All of a sudden you have AIMIM claiming 100 seats,” he adds.
Speaking to The Quint, AIMIM State chief, Imtiyaz Jaleel meanwhile clarified that the party would be contesting on a maximum of 60 seats. Adding that the party is flexible about sharing seats.
"“We are open for adjustments but subject to condition, you please convince us on the few seats where we intend to fight. If they say no, we intent to keep that seat, then they will have to convince us with statistics and data that these are the reasons why we want these seats to be retained by VBA. If we are saying we want to contest on these seats then obviously, you should ask us what is the reason that we want to contest on these seats.”" - Imtiyaz Jaleel, President, AIMIM MP and AIMIM Maharashtra unit President.
Jaleel further added that Prakash Ambedkar needs to call and speak to Asaduddin Owaisi if he wants to resume talks.
VBA-AIMIM Alliance: What The Numbers Say
Despite winning just 1 out of 48 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 elections, the alliance made a considerable dent in the Congress-NCP vote share. VBA garnered about 41 lakh votes, thus managing to gain 14 percent vote share in Maharashtra.
Constituencies where the vote split clearly led to Congress-NCP defeats include Buldhana, Solapur, Nanded, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Parbhani, Hatakanangle and Sangli. In Buldhana, the combined vote share of VBA and Congress was over 50 percent. The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance meanwhile secured a vote share of over 46 percent.
In Solapur, Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde and BVA Chief Prakash Ambedkar’s combined vote share was slightly above 49 percent. This was one percent more than that of BJP’s Dr Jai Sidheshwar Shivachary Mahaswamiji.
A similar trend could be observed in the Maharashtra Assembly elections too, as Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) has made it clear that there will be no alliance with Congress this time as well.
"“We will be contesting from all 288 seats. We are in a better position than what NCP and Congress is in. Both don’t exist in half of the constituencies. In all the 288 seats, we have a party structure.”" - Prakash Ambedkar, Chief, VBA
But the absence of a tie up with AIMIM could cost BVA its Muslim vote bank. This could especially hurt the party’s chances in the constituencies where it will be directly facing off against AIMIM candidates.
AIMIM too could stand to lose out on Dalit votes from the constituencies it decides to contest from.
But the key outcome that remains to be seen is, will the rift between AIMIM and VBA push Dalit and Muslim voters to look for alternative options in the upcoming polls? In that case, the Congress and BJP could end up becoming unintentional beneficiaries of this rift.
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