Hitting out at Mayawati ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, RPI leader and Union Minister Ramdas Athawale on Tuesday accused BSP of having “grabbed” his party’s elephant poll symbol and vowed to “snatch” it back.
“Originally the elephant was the symbol of Republican Party of India, but following the split in RPI and the rise of BSP, Mayawati grabbed it,” said the Dalit leader, who is also Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment.
Stating that he would be visiting Uttar Pradesh where elections are due next year, Athawale said all out efforts would be made to “snatch the elephant symbol” back from BSP.
Claiming that RPI was expanding its presence in states like Odisha, West Bengal and Assam apart from Maharashtra, Athawale said he was the first to find a berth in union ministry after B R Amedbkar, who was a Minister in the first cabinet headed by Jawaharlal Nehru.
While Narendra Modi government is taking a slew of measures for the welfare of Dalits and curb atrocities on them, BSP’s base has witnessed a decline and RPI would gain from the present scenario, he said.
Stating that RPI is much older than BSP with strong roots in Uttar Pradesh, he said the party had 16 MLAs in UP in 1967 and four of its members were ministers.
It is now time for RPI to retrieve its political base and work wholeheartedly to elevate the status of Dalits in the society and ensure their constitutional rights, he said.
Athawale praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said several steps have been taken as a mark of honour to Ambedkar and for the Dalits.
Referring to the terrorist attack on an Army base in Uri in north Kashmir, the union minister said it was part of a conspiracy by Pakistan which should be taught a lesson.
While India is in favour of friendly ties, Pakistan is fully responsible for creating trouble in Kashmir by misguiding the youths, he said.
Describing Pak-occupied Kashmir as a part of India, he said Pakistan should return PoK.