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RPI tilt towards saffron parties makes NCP,Congress plan counter moves

The overtures of Republican Party of India leader Ramdas Athawale towards the Shiv Sena

Written by Rakshit Sonawane | Mumbai |
May 8, 2011 3:36:17 am

The overtures of Republican Party of India leader (RPI) Ramdas Athawale towards the Shiv Sena and the BJP in the run-up to the civic polls in Mumbai and local body polls in the state have prompted the Congress and the NCP to chalk out plans to neutralise the impact of any alliance Athawale may form with the saffron front.

The NCP is planning to launch a campaign against Athwale for teaming up with “communal forces” and compromising with his ideological stand for the first time in his political career.

The NCP is likely to unleash a publicity blitz against Athawale through its cadres and its mouthpiece Rashtrawadi. Sources said the party was planning to increase the print order of the monthly publication manifold and focus on the Dalit votebank. The NCP is preparing to point out to voters in the state that Athawale had joined hands with the parties against which he and his supporters had fought street battles. The NCP is also preparing to project him as an opportunist and a power-hungry politician who can compromise on ideological commitments. Ministers have been asked to pool in their resources for the exercise.

Sources said the NCP was particularly miffed with Athawale’s plans because Sharad Pawar had made him a minister in 1990 in the state cabinet and since then he had remained a faithful ally of Pawar till 2009.

The NCP has also decided to organise a ‘Social Justice Conference’ in Mumbai on June 14 to consolidate its position among Dalits. It will also organise a series of rallies for different sections of the society like women,tribals and labourers.

Considering Athawale’s tilt towards the saffron combine,the Congress has decided to reachout to Dalits across the state through its ‘Samajik Samata Parishad’ (social equality conference) campaign. State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre said his party would reach out to the deprived people and make efforts to bring them into the mainstream. The campaign would focus on Dalit localities and attempt to convince people that the Congress was their saviour.

Since the Congress and the NCP are unlikely to have a pre-poll alliance for the forthcoming polls to 10 out of the 23 municipal corporations and 27 out of the 33 Zilla Parishads,both the parties are preparing separately to combat the impact of a possible RPI-Sena-BJP alliance.

Meanwhile,Athawale met BJP chief Nitin Gadkari on Friday and declared that he was interested in forming a larger front of political parties against the ruling Congress-NCP alliance in the state and the Centre. Gadkari had responded positively.

The Athawale-Gadkari meeting had come after Athawale’s meeting with Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Athawale had met the Sena chief on January 25,when Thackeray gave a call for ‘Shiv Shakti- Bhim Shakti’ unity (alliance of Sena and Dalits who are followers of Bhimrao Ambedkar). Since then,Athawale has been touring across the state to seek opinion of his party workers.

Athawale,incidentally,leads the largest faction of the RPI and is in political wilderness after his defeat in the Lok Sabha polls from the Shirdi Lok Sabha constituency in 2009. He had blamed his defeat on Congress and NCP leaders and formed a Third Front for the subsequent Assembly polls.

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