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'We are in the driver's seat in Maharashtra'

By Sunil Gatade
October 03, 2019 19:58 IST
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'The Congress-NCP is a declining force while we are a rising force.'

IMAGE: AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi lifts Prakash Ambedkar during a Lok Sabha election campaign in Solapur. Photograph: PTI Photo

Prakash Ambedkar, the late Dr B R Ambedkar's grandson, is a prominent Dalit leader.

Through his party, the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, Ambedkar has sought to stir up Maharashtra politics.

Despite the Lok Sabha electoral setback, he insists he will be in the driver's seat in the assembly polls

"What we have done in this election is to bring democracy to the last person by giving him representation as candidature," Ambedkar tells Sunil Gatade:

How do you see the assembly elections in Maharashtra in the backdrop of the Lok Sabha polls?

People are saying that aggressive nationalism is one of the reason behind the win in Lok Sabha election.

But I don't think that's true.

According to my data, this theory is incorrect.

The Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi could win only one (Aurangabad) out of the state's 48 Lok Sabha seats and that too through the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen with whom you had an alliance.
Reports suggest, you are the 'B' team of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Those who are saying this are probably from the Congress or the NCP (Nationalist Congress Party).

Those who are accusing us have committed frauds themselves.

The government has itself made statements, in some cases, before the high court.

These affidavits were filed a year ago.

The question is why have they not been arrested?

Why is there no prosecution?

The reason is: These people have made a settlement with the ruling party, which has given them the line that they should accuse us of being hand in glove with the BJP.

By making these accusations, they have bought time, protecting themselves from possible arrest.

The VBA is one of the most vociferous opponents of the government in the state and at the Centre.

Even after their accusations 24x7, we secured about 14 per cent of the vote.

Who are these people?

Basically, they bullied the Muslims.

The national leadership of Muslims was of one unanimous view: That Muslims should vote for anyone who is in a position to defeat the BJP.

But in Maharashtra, the Muslim clergy amended the line, saying that Muslims should vote for the Congress and the NCP instead of following the line of the central Muslim Maulvis.

If you analyse the NCP and the Congress vote, 80 per cent of their vote is from among the Muslims and only 20 per cent vote is from the Hindus.

In fact, the Marathas have deserted the NCP and the Congress.

The Congress-NCP is a declining force while we are a rising force.

Our 14 per cent vote is basically non-Muslim vote.

We hardly got one per cent of the Muslim vote.

If we had got Muslim votes, the results would have been a little different.

What is the significance of Aurangabad victory?

The message that went across to all Muslims was that we can win and defeat BJP if we go with Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi and not with the Congress.

Elections are fought on issues, but you are contesting on the basis of caste.

I am basically breaching caste.

The so-called intellectual class has become blind to the fact that the Congress-NCP and even the BJP is now playing the family rule card by allocating tickets to the wife, son, daughter.

Democracy has been converted into a family democracy where others are mere rubber stamps for voting.

What we have done in this election is to bring democracy to the last person by giving him representation as candidature.

Therefore, we could garner 40 lakh votes.

In fact, we have hammered all political parties for accepting family rule: Even Rahul Gandhi pulled up three important leaders of his party for campaigning only for their sons.

In Maharashtra, every candidate of the Congress and the NCP is basically from a family that is in politics.

Are you against the upper castes?

Caste boundaries are being broken.

Lower castes follow the leadership of the upper castes, but the upper castes do not accept the leadership of the backward castes.

By giving them (lower castes) the opportunity of candidature, we are trying to bring about equality in leadership: That whatever my caste, you will have to vote for me.

Will you still press for a separate Vidarbha state? Will it be part of your campaign in the assembly polls?

I have always said that a state has to be a manageable state.

A manageable state means a small state.

Therefore, if one wants the nation to progress, the division of bigger states into smaller states is one of the biggest agenda before the country.

And, I shall push for it during my election campaign.

What will be your response if the BJP, like in West Bengal, use the Ram card in Maharashtra?
Will it not puncture your caste card?

The BJP, the Congress and the NCP are caught in a catch-22 situation.

For them to change their character overnight is not as simple as it seems.

The moment they try to change their character, they antagonise the voters and communities that are with them.

I am asking about the Ram card...

The question is that adjusting the backward classes, the most backward classes in the structure is not possible because 122 seats are with the BJP, 59 seats with the Shiv Sena and together this is around 200.

So if you want to change, you can't change the social composition of 200 seats.

You have only 88 seats. (the Maharashtra assembly strength is 288).

What do you want to say?

We are in the driver's seat in the assembly elections in Maharashtra due to the strategy adopted in the Lok Sabha polls.

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Sunil Gatade
Source: source