SHUBHANGI KHAPRE: The issue over Indu Mill land for B R Ambedkar memorial has been resolved by the government. What will be the role of the RPI as ruling parties walk away with credit?
The Congress is the ruling party,with abundant funds,so they will advertise and take the credit. We have no problems as our concern was that a magnificent memorial should be built. But I must say that had it not been for the agitation of Dalits,it would have remained on paper. The Centre reckons that December 6 deadline cannot be taken lightly as it would lead to law and order problems. Now,the government should take the project ahead. I admit Sharad Pawar held
meetings with Central leaders on the issue last year. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan also pursued the matter.
MANASI PHADKE: Has MMRDA,the executing authority,sought your suggestions on designs?
I think the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan-headed committee,comprising experts in various fields,should deal with the memorial. I feel the memorial should be on a scale that would do justice to intellectual and socio-political status of Babasaheb (Ambedkar). I also suggested a mammoth statue in the sea behind the Chaiyabhoomi in Dadar.
VAIDYANATHAN IYER: Do you see a possibility of a third front in the 2014 polls?
A third front is not possible,second front is possible. If we follow the Janata Dal experiment where they isolated the Congress by joining hands with all,including Jansangh; it worked in the past. Today,NDA is left with just Akali Dal and Shiv Sena. They should work to get Biju Janata Dal,Trinamool Congress,AIADMK and others to consolidate NDA. The BJP will also have to consider the Dalits and Muslim vote bank,which has helped Congress retain power.
VAIDYANATHAN IYER: Do you think Muslims will vote for Narendra Modi?
Not many Muslims will vote for Modi. BJP will have to work out an agenda to win over the Muslim vote. If they keep away from Hindutva and Ram temple issue,it can work to some extent. Two-thirds of the land allotted by Allahabad High Court can be used for Ram temple and one-third of the land,given to minorities,can be used for mosque. This was my suggestion. Why should they insist on disputed areas for temple? In any case,Ram temple issue will not work again for BJP. If Modi gets only 180-190 seats and they require 272 seats,the question will be to wean away allies from UPA. We can seek help from Sharad Pawar and others. BJP will have to see who can bring the additional partners.
SHUBHANGI KHAPRE: Do you think Sharad Pawar will ever compromise his secular credentials to join hands with NDA?
I have joined NDA but have not given up my secularism. If they are short of numbers and the Congress is not in a position to form the government,some way will have to be worked out. Pawar always believes in democracy. Nobody will want immediate elections. I am not saying he will join NDA. I am saying UPA allies will have to be engaged in the process. In the past when Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed the government,smaller parties across the country lend their support. BJP had kept Ram temple issue on the backburner and ruled for six years.
ZEESHAN SHAIKH: You are talking of bringing new partners. What about uniting Dalit leaders?
It is not possible to bring everybody under one banner. I feel even if all Dalit leaders come together,it will not make much difference,as differences are at the top and not among the workers who know the alternative. Why are we making unity an issue in Maharashtra? In Uttar Pradesh,the Bahujan Samaj Party has more serious problems,yet Mayawati is a formidable force. The differences are here to stay. We have to adopt BSP model to incorporate all sections,including Marathas and Brahmins,and also enter into alliances.
STUTI SHUKLA: Do you think the grand alliance will require a fourth partner,Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)?
There is no need for a fourth partner. The RPI is the third partner of Sena and BJP and that is enough. The Congress and NCP came to power when we were their third partner. Now,RPI will help Sena-BJP to come to power. If MNS wants to join,we will welcome them. But MNS does not want to join and the Congress will not leave them. In 2009,the Congress gained by keeping MNS away from Sena-BJP. But I am confident Sena-BJP-RPI will win 150-155 seats of 288 seats in 2014 state Assembly elections.
STUTI SHUKLA: Has Sena-BJP agreed to your seat demands?
Yes,I am sure they will consider. I have asked for three Lok Sabha seats and one Rajya Sabha seat. RPI will field a Dalit candidate in one seat and general candidates in two seats. We are keen on Latur and Wardha. The third seat could be Mumbai South,Satara or Pune.
SHUBHANGI KHAPRE: Ideologically,how will you change the Dalit mindset,which considers Sena-BJP communal and
On January 25,2011,when I met Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray,he said Why not bring Shiv Shakti and Bhim Shakti together? I held discussions with experts from all walks of life and the feedback was positive. In 2009,the third front experiment did not work as people did not consider us an alternative to Congress-NCP. So,we decided to align with Sena-BJP. Moreover,I personally have reverence for Bal Thackeray. I admit we were rivals and criticised each other in the past. But things can always move forward.
SHUBHANGI KHAPRE: In how many seats can RPI play a
Sena-BJP along with RPI can win 33 of 48 Lok Sabha seats. We can make a difference in seats where Sena-BJP candidates lost with small margins. In Vidarbha,Marathwada and North Maharashtra,we have pockets where it can make difference. In Assembly,we will strengthen the Sena-BJP candidates in almost all regions
ZEESHAN SHAIKH: How do you justify being with Sena-BJP,which has not even given you a Rajya Sabha seat? Will you do a rethink on going back to Congress-NCP?
The fact is Sena and BJP do not want to leave me. If they fail to meet our demands,I will have to reconsider. There is no question of going back to Congress-NCP,as I am not here for a Rajya Sabha seat alone. I want to fight to bring
credible change and also consolidate my party.
VAIDYANATHAN IYER: Do you believe economic empowerment is more important than political empowerment for
While economic prosperity is significant,political empowerment is also necessary. B R Ambedkar always said one should learn to live with dignity. Now,the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI),with 3,500 entrepreneurs,are working to usher in economic empowerment among Dalits. But politics will prove complementary to economic development.
VAIDYANATHAN IYER: Do you support reservation in the
I will have to look at the statistics. But I feel Dalits have a good representation in the government sector in class three and four categories. I am in favour of reservation in private sector without causing additional financial burden to them. They should reserve 20 per cent jobs for candidates in category based on requirement and merit.
MAYURA JANWALKAR: How do you explain rising atrocities against Dalit women? Even their representation in politics is low.
Literacy levels among Dalit women have to increase. In rural areas,women working in fields are often subjected to atrocities. I had suggested a separate Dalit women commission. I admit their representation is low in politics.
In the Sena,women cadre are stronger and at the forefront. We should also have a Dalit womens wing.
(TRANSCRIBED BY SHUBHANGI KHAPRE)