Lakhs of Dalits who thronged Chaitya Bhoomi at Dadar to pay homage to Dr B R Ambedkar on his death anniversary on Friday seemed split between the Congress-NCP combine and the Shiv Sena-BJP-RPI combine ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
While RPI led by Ramdas Athavale enjoys considerable support among the community that accounts for 10.5 per cent of the states population,there are other contenders as well.
Ideologically,it will be impossible for Dalits to readily accept the Sena-BJP-RPI alliance as an alternative to the Congress-NCP. They are looking for a more credible alternative, said Bharip Bahujan Party president Prakash Ambedkar,who is also the grandson of Dr Ambedkar.
Athavale,however,used the occasion to pitch for an handover of 12-acre Indu Mills compound for a grand memorial of Dr Ambedkar.
If the government fails to implement its promise of a memorial (at Indu Mills),we will launch an agitation. Dalits will take to streets and the government will be responsible for the law and order situation, the RPI leader said.
The Indu Mills compound itself remained cordoned off amid heavy security on Friday.
Top state leaders,including Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan,state BJP president Devendra Fadnavis and deputy leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde also visited Chaitya Bhoomi to pay their homage to Dr Ambedkar.
While every party is out to woo the Dalits,the massive crowd that had gathered at Chaitya Bhoomi sent out mixed signals. Ashok Gulabrao Ranvir (68) of Jalna,who visits the memorial almost every year,said,Although RPI has a sizeable following,I am not convinced about the social engineering. I am wary of the Sena-BJPs
Sanjay Sarkate from Akola felt Prakash Ambedkars Bharip Bahujan Party was a better alternative.
Ramesh Borkar,a college student,found nothing wrong in the alternative suggested by Athavale since the Congress has failed to uplift the Dalits.