Why Uddhav Thackeray Sought To Ally With Prakash Ambedkar, And Why That Still May Not Solve The Former's Problems

by Varun Singh - Jan 25, 2023 11:11 AM +05:30 IST
Why Uddhav Thackeray Sought To Ally With Prakash Ambedkar, And Why That Still May Not Solve The Former's ProblemsUddhav Thackeray (L) with Prakash Ambedkar (Twitter)
  • The alliance seems so important for Uddhav Thackeray that it was for the first time that he left the coziness of Matoshree and also the party headquarters, Sena Bhawan, and held a joint press conference from a third venue.

    To top it all, it was Balasaheb Thackeray's birth anniversary that day.

One more party following Dalit Politics in Maharashtra took a 'right turn', but this isn’t the first time that the Ambedkarite politics has decided to align with a right-wing party. 

On Monday, Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) allied with Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, a party led by Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. 

Before we talk about these two parties and how their coming together will impact the politics of Maharashtra, let’s understand Dalit politics of Maharashtra.

While the entire country practices Dalit politics using the name of Dr Ambedkar, the Dalit politics in Maharashtra itself has not been able to have much of a success when it’s come to forming a government.

In Uttar Pradesh, the Bahujan Samaj Party, that claims to follow Ambedkarite politics, could even form a government, that too on its own. However, in Maharashtra all the parties under several banners of Republican Party could never form their own government. 

Though on several occasion the RPI (A) led by Ramdas Athawale, has been part of the government and he even is a minister in the centre, the other factions haven’t been able to taste much of a success.

Prakash Ambedkar’s faction has not had this success, in most cases the Republican factions had their votes shifted to their allies, and the favour hasn’t been returned.

Take the example of 2012, when the BJP-Shiv Sena-RPI(A) came together to fight the BMC elections. The RPI(A) votes shifted to BJP-Sena, but not a single candidate from RPI(A) won. 

This has always been the case, even in 2019 general elections, the VBA of Ambedkar helped others to win, but couldn’t win a seat for itself. 

This is how Ambedkarite parties have always fared in Maharashtra, sacrificing for the bigger party in the state. 

So why is Shiv Sena allying with Prakash Ambedkar? The question actually has to be reverse: why is Ambedkar allying with Shiv Sena when there are multiple examples that could have easily deterred him from taking this decision? Especially when the alliance partners in the MVA have already given a cold shoulder to Ambedkar. 

This also would be for the first time, that Uddhav Thackeray left the coziness of Matoshree and also the party headquarters, Sena Bhawan, and held a joint press conference from someplace else—Ambedkar Bhawan along with Prakash Ambedkar, in this case. 

Prakash Ambedkar’s politics and his vote base is limited to a few districts. Akola is a prominent place where Ambedkar has his presence.

Uddhav, with majority of his MLAs abandoning him is now at the helm of an urban party with presence limited to Mumbai and a few other seats.

However, Uddhav has grown popular amongst the voters of the minority community. Especially after he ditched BJP and joined hands with NCP and Congress, though its the the first part of this statement is majorly the reason for new-found popularity.

Secondly, Uddhav knows that it will be difficult for him to win the BMC with just the NCP; the NCP has a very weak base in Mumbai city. He needs the Dalit votes to boost his new found popularity amongst the Muslims. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the AIMIM and the Prakash Ambedkar-led party came together and it did manage to dent the Congress and NCP's chances.

Looks like Uddhav is trying to replicate the same in the upcoming elections. Many Congress leaders based out of Mumbai are wary of joining hands with Uddhav for the BMC polls and they have expressed this openly.

But the biggest challenge that Uddhav’s plan will face, in Mumbai, will be from the RPI(A).  

In 2012, it was the Uddhav-led Shiv Sena which was instrumental in bringing in Ramdas Athawale into the saffron fold. 

In Mumbai, Athawale’s faction is more popular and has a better base than that of Prakash Ambedkar, and Athawale has already chosen his side. Not only this, the Shiv Sena faction led by Eknath Shinde is cosying up with other Dalit parties, and has even achieved some success.

So while, Uddhav is preparing, Shinde and especially the BJP is keeping a close watch on his moves.

Uddhav will face opposition for allying with Prakash Ambedkar from his MVA alliance. The vote base of NCP and Congress and that of Ambedkar are similar. The Dalits of Maharashtra have chosen the Congress over the other parties in rural belts. Hence, it isn’t yet clear, whether the Ambedkar led party with which Uddhav has aligned today will be a part of the MVA too. 

On the Jayanti of Shiv Sena patriarch, Balasaheb Thackeray, Eknath Shinde visited his memorial hours before Uddhav and garlanded the statue of Balasaheb Thackeray, while Uddhav was cementing the alliance with Ambedkar.

This already has created an uproar as most Shinde MLAs who till six months ago were his colleagues were seen even touching his feet, making him their undisputed leader.  

While Uddhav is struggling, Shinde just a week ago along with Devendra Fadnavis held a successful rally in Mumbai’s BKC attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where he inaugurated projects worth Rs 38,800 crore.

The politics in the state of Maharashtra is changing, every party has realised that they need an alliance to win, while Shinde-BJP along with RPI(A) and other smaller parties have grouped, Uddhav with Ambedkar have also formed a team. Although, it’s still unknown whether Ambedkar is part of MVA as well or will Uddhav has to give him seats from his share. 

Varun Singh, is a Mumbai-based journalist and tracks politics and other important news from the western region of the country. Varun has spent close to 18 years in journalism.
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