Mounting pressure on both the alliances in Maharashtra — ruling BJP-Shiv Sena and opposition Congress-NCP — veteran Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar, is contesting from two Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Ambedkar is the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Constitution.
Balasaheb, as he is popularly known, is contesting from Solapur in western Maharashtra and Akola in Vidarbha — under the banner of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA). Both these seats go to polls during the second phase.
Ambedkar staged a show of strength recently when a huge crowd walked with him as he went to file the nominations.
The 64-year-old Ambedkar, a lawyer by profession, has been the member of 12th and 13th Lok Sabha and had also been a Rajya Sabha member for one term.
He was the founder-president of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM), one of the Republican factions.
However, along with the Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), he founded the VBA, that includes various communities of Dalits, Muslims, tribals, Dhangars, Kolis and Agris. The VBA has decided to field candidates in all 48 seats of the state.
Last month, the rally at Shivaji Park, addressed by Ambedkar and Owaisi, set the alarm bells ringing among both coalitions. Talking to reporters, Ambedkar said that his main fight was with the BJP-Sena alliance as the Congress-NCP has weakened.
Ambedkar’s earlier efforts at forging an alliance with the Congress-NCP fell through and he called off the talks. At one point, his BBM party was part of the erstwhile Congress-NCP government, but he pulled out later.
In the Solapur-SC seat, Ambedkar is pitted against former Union home minister and ex-chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde of the Congress and BJP’s Dr Jaysiddheshwar Swami, a spiritual leader.
In Akola, he will face Congress candidate Hidayat Patel and sitting BJP MP Sanjay Dhotre.
AIMIM has fielded TV journalist-turned-politician Imtiaz Jaleel, an MLA, from Aurangabad against Shiv Sena stalwart Chandrakant Khaire and Congress candidate Subhash.
“The Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party too are fielding candidates in Maharashtra. As regards the VBA, it’s a formidable Dalit-Muslim alliance and it would have a considerable impact,” sources in Maharashtra’s Dalit-Republican movement said.
Ambedkar had vehemently protested against the arrest of civil rights defenders and human rights activists in connection with the 2017 Elgar Parishad in Shaniwarwada and the 2018 Koregaon Bhima caste riots.
DH News Service