Shiv Sena (UBT) and Prakash Ambedkars VBA announce alliance
MUMBAI: The Shiv Sena (UBT) and Prakash Ambedkar's Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi on Monday announced an alliance ahead of civic polls in several cities in Maharashtra, the move coinciding with the birth anniversary of Shiv Sena founder late Bal Thackeray.
Addressing a joint press conference, Uddhav Thackeray said his grandfather Keshav Thackeray, also known as Prabodhankar Thackeray, and Prakash Ambedkar's grandfather, legendary social icon and jurist B R Ambedkar, were contemporaries who admired each other and worked to eradicate social evils and bad practices.
"Now there are some bad practices in politics and to eradicate them, the inheritors of these two leaders, and people around them, have come together to protect the country's interest. We are coming together to ensure democracy is alive," Thackeray said.
Without naming the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is ruling in Maharashtra as well as at the Centre, Thackeray said the country is heading towards autocracy.
The terms of several municipal corporations, including those of Mumbai, Thane, Pune, and municipal councils ended last year but polls could not be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thackeray also dared the powers-that-be to hold Assembly polls in Maharashtra at the earliest. The state is being ruled by a faction of the Sena that broke away in June last year and the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Thackeray group has routinely called it a dispensation of "traitors".
Speaking about the alliance, Ambedkar said the coming together of the VBA and Shiv Sena (UBT) was the start of the "politics of change".
The move is seen as an attempt by Thackeray to consolidate support among Dalits ahead of the civic polls in the state.
The VBA has presence in pockets of Vidarbha, with Ambedkar having represented Akola in the Lok Sabha in 1998 and 1999.
It had formed an alliance with the Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen in 2019 and had hurt the prospects of the NCP and Congress on several Assembly seats.
The alliance talks between the Shiv Sena (UBT) and the VBA were underway for the last few months, with Ambedkar earlier saying it was up to Thackeray to make the formal announcement.
Ambedkar also said the alliance is between the Shiv Sena (UBT) and the VBA for the moment, but he hoped other constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party) also join.
Thackeray said he has not seen opposition from the Congress and NCP to the inclusion of VBA in the MVA.
Last month, the Jogendra Kawade-led People's Republican Party (PRP), which has a following among Dalits in the state, had joined hands with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde's Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena.
The BJP, which is a partner in Shinde's government, is allied with the Republican Party of India (A) of Ramdas Athawale, who is also a Union minister.