Laxman Mane, one of the founding members of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) led by Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, has parted ways with the party and started his own, the Maharashtra Bahujan Aghadi. In an interview with The Indian Express, Laxman Mane, a popular writer of Marathi, accuses Ambedkar of working in the interest of the BJP-RSS and slams his “dictatorial” attitude of running the party. Excerpts:
You were one of the founding members of the VBA. And now you have decided to part ways with it and start your own party. What is the one primary reason behind your move?
We founded the VBA by bringing the Dalit community and Muslims on one common platform. We wanted to take on the communal forces that were threatening the secular fabric of this nation. The Constitution, whose architect was Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, seemed to be under threat in the current regime. Therefore, we came together to protect the Constitution and uphold our secular principles. However, the VBA was not seen to be fighting against communal forces. It seemed to be functioning in the interest of those very forces against whom we were fighting. And that’s the prime reason why other leaders and I decided to dump the VBA.
How did the VBA help the communal forces that it was supposed to fight?
Our fight was against the BJP and the RSS. In the election ring, we were fighting against the BJP-Shiv Sena. We thought we were fighting against them. However, it turned out to be otherwise. We contested the election and ended up helping the same forces against which we were fighting. We lost all 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra. But in at least nine seats, we helped the BJP-Sena candidate win. Overall too, we created an atmosphere for their victory. This was shocking. Why were we in the election ring ? To fight against these forces or join hands with them?
Besides this, you had raised objections to certain appointments in the party.
Yes, of course. Two appointments made by the VBA chief Prakash Ambedkar hurt us. One was to the post of general secretary of the party and the other was spokesperson. Both were from the BJP-RSS. They got prime posts. It looked like there was some understanding… The BJP-RSS were set to take on our party. The VBA was clearly being hijacked by the BJP-RSS. No one in the party liked these appointments. We were not even taken in to confidence. We did not understand the logic behind appointing people imported from outside.
Why was Prakash Ambedkar not keen on a tie-up with the Congress-NCP?
We too did not understand this. We were repeatedly urging him to form an alliance with like-minded and left of centre parties, especially the Congress-NCP alliance. But he was not interested in aligning with the Congress-NCP. It was difficult to understand what was going on in his mind.
Do you think had the VBA aligned with the Congress-NCP, not only Prakash Ambedkar but your candidates on at least two or three seats could have won?
Of course, we would have won. And that’s what we tried to tell Prakash Ambedkar. But he was never in a mood to listen. In nine seats, we helped the BJP-Shiv Sena. If we had an alliance with the Congress-NCP, we would have won these seats. Prakash Ambedkar could have won. It would have been a great moment for secular forces. But that was not to be.
Senior Congress leaders like Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan often accused the VBA of being the B team of the BJP. What do you have to say about this allegation?
Initially, we were confused as to why the Congress made such allegations. We believed that there was no truth in this. However, after the results, it was clear that we indeed worked as the B team of the BJP. Our presence and the atmosphere we created seemed to have favoured the BJP-Shiv Sena.
The Congress also alleged that rallies and helicopter service at Prakash Ambedkar’s disposal were financed by the BJP, but he has denied these charges.
We wondered where all the money was coming from. But we were told at our meeting that one of the leaders was financing the party. We believed in this… we had no reason to disbelieve the contention.
It looks like you never got along with Prakash Ambedkar. What was your problem with his leadership?
He took all decisions unilaterally. He never took us into confidence. All the 48 candidates were decided by him, on his own. We have no clue as to whether he considered the elective merit of the candidates or not. There was no democracy in the party. Whatever he said or did, everyone had to follow. His attitude was dictatorial, not democratic. When we asked him whether he wanted to become an MP, he said no. When we asked whether he wanted to become the chief minister, he said no. He simply kept saying he wanted to contest all seats.
What is the road map for your new party?
Our party wants to join hands with the Congress-NCP and fight the elections. We are not seeking or setting any terms for seat-sharing. We want to defeat communal forces. We will take all left parties, secular parties, like-minded parties and parties which believe in upholding democratic principles. If left parties have a problem in joining hands with the Congress-NCP alliance, we will have no such reservations.
Are you drawing support from the Dalit community?
Over 150 RPI (Republican Party of India) groups and parties have extended their support. We are confident that the Dalit community will vote for us en masse as we represent their real aspirations.
Do you think your party’s presence in the ring will create confusion in the Dalit community and take the sting out of the VBA?
Certainly. The VBA cannot work in the interest of certain forces. The Dalit community will certainly be confused but they will realise that the Maharashtra Bahujan Aghadi is their real representative.