‘Seat-sharing talks yet to take place, trying to narrow down differences with MVA’


The talks over seat sharing with the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in Maharashtra will take place once an understanding develops on key issues, said Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) president Prakash Ambedkar.

Speaking to The Hindu, the grandson of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said the INDIA bloc will benefit from differences among BJP’s allies in the NDA over selection of candidates in the wake of multiple contenders for many seats. Edited excerpts:

You took part in a meeting of the MVA held to discuss seat sharing ahead of the Lok Sabha election. What did you discuss and how many seats are you demanding?

We are focusing on safeguarding Other Backward Classes (OBCs) reservation, separate quota for Marathas, and the minimum support price for farmers’ produce. On seat sharing, first let there be an alliance in place following an understanding over key issues. Once there is clarity on it, we can discuss seat sharing. The MVA has agreed to it.

How will the split in the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) impact the prospects of the Opposition INDIA bloc?

It is definitely going to have an impact. There is the [Chief Minister] Eknath Shinde factor also. He is the second tallest leader after Manoj Jarange-Patil in the Maratha community. If he sustains that image, he can make a dent. By announcing reservation for Marathas, Mr. Shinde has become a pan-Maharashtra leader. He gained the reputation of being a person who can call the shots.

Did Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis play any role in the Maratha reservation issue?

During the whole episode, Mr. Shinde looked after the Marathas while Mr. Fadnavis handled OBCs. However, the BJP has been adversely affected by the announcement of giving Kunbi certificates to Marathas. The OBCs, who traditionally backed the party, are feeling betrayed. They feel that their party failed to protect them and are slowly moving away from it. This will have a major impact during the election.

What is your party’s stand on the Maratha reservation?

Marathas are a dominant community. We are in support of separate reservation for the community.

You have been critical of Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole sending you an invite to join the MVA. You said he does not have any authority to take a decision on it. Does your stance remain the same after attending the MVA meeting?

We maintain the same stand. They had invited us for the MVA seat-sharing talks, not induction. When it comes to the Shiv Sena (UBT) and the NCP faction led by Sharad Pawar, we have no issues. But when it comes to Congress, the invitation has to come through a proper channel. They must clarify their stand.

Despite differences, can you still become a part of the MVA alliance?

We are trying to narrow down the differences through meetings. However, it is evident that there exist warring camps within the Congress. They should focus more on the revival of the party, but that is not our headache.

Do you think the MVA will make an impact in the Lok Sabha election?

The BJP is on a sticky wicket, so it is focusing on pulling apart the INDIA bloc. The BJP is not strong and playing cheap politics.

Did the BJP’s strategy pay off?

Temporarily, yes. But, it is digging its own grave. The BJP’s trump card is religion and I’m happy that it has destroyed it, because once you have four to five candidates [to field from a seat], religion takes a back seat as all of them would be Hindus. Each candidate, along with the party vote bank, needs strong community backing, which is a loss for the BJP.

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