Republican Party rumblings isolate Ramdas Athawale

NDA’s dalit face in Maharashtra, Ramdas Athawale is finding it hard to drown the clamour for severing ties with the NDA

PTI photo
PTI photo
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Sanjeev Chandan

Aggrieved that barring a ministerial post at the Centre for Ramdas Athawale, Republican Party of India (A) has tasted little power in the last four years, discordant voices have surfaced within the party. The NDA should not take the support of RPI (A) for granted is the refrain.

Party insiders claim that support was extended to the BJP in 2014 on the express understanding that RPI(A) would get ‘ 10% share’ in power at every level in Maharashtra. But RPI(A) was not given a single seat in the election for the Legislative Council.

Party General Secretary Avinash Mahatekar issued a statement to give vent to the disenchantment. “How do we continue to support the NDA,” he asked. The national General Secretary Mohan Patil claimed that feedback from 450 Dalit organisations is that dalit voters are upset with the NDA Government.

Following the rift between Shiv Sena and the BJP in 2014, Athawale decided to stand by the BJP. When he was made a minister of state in charge of social welfare, he credited the BJP for installing the first Republican minister after Baba Saheb Ambedkar

In Madhya Pradesh, warned Patil, RPI(A) could poll around 3% of the votes and could sway the result in several constituencies. The Vidarbha Secretary of RPI(A) Ashok Meshram wants the party to leave the NDA immediately.

Party president Athawale however has put his trust in the Modi Government. While he finds the disenchantment among party workers genuine and valid, Athawale claims that the Modi Government has taken several initiatives to improve the condition of Dalits.

It was in 2011 that RPI(A) had joined NDA, which did not have a dalit leader in Maharashtra of stature. Athawale is credited with extending NDA’s support base among the Dalits in the state considerably.

Following the rift between Shiv Sena and the BJP in 2014, Athawale decided to stand by the BJP. When he was made a minister of state in charge of social welfare, he credited the BJP for installing the first Republican minister after Baba Saheb Ambedkar.

Athawale, however, appears to be getting isolated within the party as discordant voices get louder. It remains to be seen how long he manages to plough a lonely furrow.

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