Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief Prakash Ambedkar on Monday said the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar could be overthrown if the Ambedkarite, Muslim and Adivasi communities came together.
Mr. Ambedkar, who had experimented with a new political equation in Maharashtra by allying with the Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, said the VBA was looking to form a similar alliance in the coming 243-seat-Bihar Assembly elections.
“In Bihar, Muslims, Ambedkarites and Adivasis together constitute 40% of the total population. This combined force can bring down any government. If the NDA [Nitish Kumar-led JD(U)-BJP coalition] in Bihar falls, then it is possible to overthrow the NDA at the Centre as well…the Modi government has shown itself to be against citizenship…I urge educated Muslims to think before exercising their franchise this time,” said Mr. Ambedkar, the eldest grandson of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.
He asserted that the VBA was eager to usher in a new equation in the country’s politics. “The alliance was successful in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. While I had hoped to take it further, that did not happen. But what did not happen here [in Maharashtra] can take place in Bihar…our avowed objective of contesting the Bihar Assembly elections is to defeat the NDA,” he said.
Mr. Ambedkar, who recently toured Bihar, said he would announce his party’s strategy for the polls in the next few days.
The ‘Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh’ (the original name of Mr. Ambedkar’s party) had, amid great fanfare, forged the alliance with the AIMIM in November 2018.
‘Game changer’ perception
At the time, the coalition was projected – and perceived – as a possible ‘game changer’ in Maharashtra politics with its aim to capture the Dalit-Muslim votes traditionally held by the Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in the State.
The VBA-AIMIM alliance had queered the pitch for the Congress and the NCP in at least 10 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats by cannibalising the latter parties’ traditional Dalit-minority vote-bank.
Despite winning only one seat (that of Imtiaz Jaleel from Aurangabad), the alliance managed several major upsets by splitting the votes that helped ensure the defeats of Swabhimani Paksha leader Raju Shetti in Hatkanangale (Kolhapur) and senior Congressmen Sushilkumar Shinde (in Solapur) and Ashok Chavan (in Nanded) among others.
However, the VBA-AIMIM political honeymoon ended by the time of the Maharashtra Assembly polls in October last. It degenerated into bitter mutual recrimination over seat-sharing.
Mr. Jaleel, the AIMIM’s strong representative in Maharashtra, claimed that Mr. Ambedkar offered his party a paltry eight of the 288 seats.
Mr. Ambedkar defended himself by claiming that neither he nor his party had never slammed the door on alliance talks.