Ahead of the state Assembly elections, the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) has asked the Congress-led front to clarify whether it still thinks that the VBA was the B-team of the BJP before any discussions of an alliance.
“We want to know from the Congress-led front whether it still considers that VBA is BJP’s B-team. They had repeatedly accused us of working for the BJP. That’s why we want them to clarify their stand. This will help us in deciding whether to form an alliance with them or not,” Prakash Ambedkar, who heads the VBA, told The Indian Express on Monday. After the seat-sharing talks for the Lok Sabha elections failed, Congress and NCP leaders had repeatedly accused the VBA of helping the saffron party and called it BJP’s B-team.
Ambedkar said the VBA will meet on June 7 and take a decision on the possibility of an alliance with the Congress-led front for the assembly elections. “We have not taken any decision yet,” he said.
In a tweet last week, Ambedkar had said his party would demand “equal treatment” from the Congress-led alliance in the seat-sharing discussions. However, on Monday, he said he would like to first know the Congress-NCP’s view about his party’s identity. “We will make the demand after we get clarity from them about our identity,” he said.
At the Congress-NCP meeting last week, not much was apparently discussed about the VBA. At the meeting, NCP state chief Jayant Patil had said, “VBA has helped BJP in the Lok Sabha elections but we have not taken any discussion regarding seat-sharing with them.”
While state Congress chief Ashok Chavan was not available for his comment, a Congress spokesperson said one round of discussions regarding seat-sharing has been held and a few more rounds are likely to happen and the issue of VBA might be discussed then.
Farmers’ leader Raju Shetti, who was present at the meeting, said there was a need to take VBA on board as it had caused damage to the alliance in 9-10 Lok Sabha seats. “During the campaigning, I had held discussions with Prakash Ambedkar in a bid to get him on board, but the effort did not yield result. I will again try to meet him and discuss the issue,” Shetti said. To this, Ambedkar said, “If Shetti had joined the VBA, he would have remained an MP.”
Shetti also met MNS chief Raj Thackeray and urged him to join the Congress-led front. “Thackeray told me that he needed time to decide,” he said.
Shetti lost the recent parliamentary election from Hatkanangle seat by a margin of one lakh vote. The VBA candidate in the constituency had secured nearly one lakh votes.
Before the Lok Sabha election campaigns had begun, the Congress-led alliance had tried to rope in Ambedkar, who had first demanded 12 seats and then wanted Congress to bring RSS within the fold of the Constitution. Before the alliance could take a decision, he went ahead and fielded several candidates. He had then insisted that he would not talk to any state leaders, but would hold discussions only with Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who refused to entertain him. When asked whether Gandhi had invited him for talks, Ambedkar said he was not given an appointment.
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