In a show of strength on Saturday, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh chief Prakash Ambedkar and AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi, who have come together to form the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), held a rally at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park, where both criticised the Congress over its alleged soft Hindutva stand and exploitation of Dalits and minorities.
The Congress has been dithering over allying with the VBA for the Lok Sabha polls, as it feels that associating with a front that includes AIMIM could put off Hindu voters.
“You (people) gave chance to Congress for 70 years. All of us, including Muslims, have faced the side effects of this. The tide is now turning against the current system. After 70 years (of Independence), what is the situation in this country? We have been giving applications for jobs and for fulfilling our needs for the last 70 years, but those were thrown in the dustbin,” Ambedkar said while addressing the rally.
Attempt to consolidate Muslim-SC vote
The Asaduddin Owaisi-Prakash Ambedkar floated Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) is an attempt to consolidate the Muslim-SC vote and provide an alternate to the established alliances like the Congress-NCP and the BJP-Shiv Sena in the state. While the alliance has made other political parties wary, discontent is brewing inside the alliance over the perceived sidelining of Muslim candidates. While Owaisi and Ambedkar took Saturday’s rally as a show of strength as well as solidarity, questions are being raised on whether this alliance will be able to sustain amidst the clash of personality of its two leaders.
The two leaders had set up VBA in an attempt to consolidate the Muslim-Dalit vote and provide an alternate to the established alliances like the Congress-NCP and the BJP-Shiv Sena in the state. The VBA, which is planning to contest over a dozen seats in the state, managed to draw a substantial crowd in its first major rally in Mumbai.
While both leaders criticised Prime Minister Modi as well, they chose to directly attack Congress, blaming it for the plight of Muslims and Dalits.
Ambedkar said that his party’s differences with the Congress were not on the issue of seat sharing but ideological. “Congress is saying that they are following soft Hindutva and RSS follows hardline Hindutva. So, how do they claim to be secular? I was telling Congress to bring RSS under the ambit of the Constitution and ban their ideology. But they are silent on this,” he added.
Owaisi blamed Congress for the plight of Muslims. “I want say that Congress is responsible for Muslims’ present condition. The Srikrishna report was not implemented because of Congress. You have Muslims being arrested in MP under NSA for cow slaughter. Until when you will support them? Muslims in Maharashtra need to look beyond a bipolar political world and support people like Prakash Ambedkar,” he said.
He added that VBA provided an alternate to the people who were sick of the polices of Congress and BJP.
“Thackeray, Pawar, Fadnavis and Gandhi are the peshwas of today. When elections come close, we will be called as vote-cutters by Congress-NCP and Modi will call us enemies of the community. But I ask you to be firm and vote for Prakash Ambedkar,” Owaisi said.
Owaisi also took a swipe at Pakistan and Maulana Masood Azhar over their role in the February 14 Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. “Islam talks about peace. Azhar is no cleric but a devil in disguise,” he said.
Ambedkar, meanwhile, alleged that the state government was targeting Gaothans to usurp land. “BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP have leaders who are builders, because of which they are trying to grab land. We need to save this land. This government is of builders and thieves. You should not vote for MLAs or MPs who are builders,” he said.
He claimed that if their front was voted to power, they would make education free and create an alternate banking system where priority lending of up to 90 per cent would be given to destitutes and minorities.