Maharashtra: Ambedkar, Raj, Owaisi can't be discounted

Raj Thackeray, Asadudding Owaisi, and Prakash Ambedkar.

In the direct fight between two diametrically-opposite alliances - ruling BJP-Shiv Sena and the opposition Congress-NCP, the factors vis-a-vis Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul (AIMIM) could not be discounted. 

Raj Thackeray's MNS is going through a rough patch and did not contest the Lok Sabha polls and in dozen-odd rallies, the nephew of late Bal Thackeray sought the ouster of prime minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. But now he has sprung a surprise by seeking votes for a "formidable opposition" in Vidhan Sabha polls. In 2014, his party won just one seat of Junnar and the MLA Sharad Sonawane had now joined Shiv Sena.

On the other hand, Asaduddin Owaisi's party had won two seats -  Waris Pathan (Byculla) and Imtiaz Jaleel (Aurangabad Central), the latter was elected to Lok Sabha from Aurangabad. 

In Lok Sabha polls, VBA-AIMIM contested the polls together and dented the Congress-NCP Muslim-Dalit vote bank in over a dozen seats and BJP in one. Two Congress ex-CMs Ashok Chavan (Nanded) and Sushilkumar Shinde (Solapur) lost the polls because of the front. 

Now the VBA and AIMIM has split.

While VBA is contesting most of the 288 seats, MNS has fielded candidates in 100 plus seats and AIMIM in around 50.

The VBA's success depends on the fact that Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, has managed to bring together parties and groups of Dalits, Tribals, Dhangars, Kolis, Agris, Banjaras, Malis, Kaikadis.

"In Lok Sabha polls, the VBA's vote share was 14 per cent though it did not win a single seat. In 2009, Raj has shown his importance by denting the Marathi-manoos vote bank of Shiv Sena,  but he could not carry it forward in 2014. AIMIM has a presence in Mumbai and Marathwada region," a senior political analyst told DH.

Both, initially Congress and then NCP were keen for an alliance but did not materialise because of unrealistic demands of Ambedkar.  "VBA is B-Team of BJP," is the charge of senior Congress leaders,  but Ambedkar says that the Lok Sabha results have proved that the base of the grand old party has eroded. 

Similarly, senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar was keen on a formal alliance with Raj but Congress was not forthcoming,  however,  now the opposition alliance has backed Raj's candidates in at least two places as a tacit understanding.

A senior MNS leader said that Raj still has a following in the Mumbai-Nashik-Pune triangle and still drawing crowds.

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