Pune: Union Minister of State for Social Justice and the Republican Party of India (RPI) leader Ramdas Athawale has organised a rally in the city in the wake of the State Assembly and Lok Sabha elections next year and the increasing stature of the Bharatiya Republican Party (BRP) President Prakash Ambedkar in the State. Though the party is denying it, observers claim that it is a show of strength by Athawale.
The RPI has organised a two-day State-level rally in Pune at the SSPMS grounds on May 26 and 27. CM Devendra Fadnavis and senior leaders will participate at the rally. Athawale has planned the rally to show his party’s presence in the State. The rally is aimed to counter the increasing public support to BRP leader Prakash Ambedkar after the Koregaon-Bhima incident.
While speaking to Sakal Times, Avinash Mahatekar, National General Secretary of RPI, said, “We are not conducting the rally to counter Ambedkar. It is our ongoing party programme. We conducted a national rally in Delhi and now, we are organising it in the State.”
Mahatekar said, “Being a part of the government, we have tried to protect rights of Dalit and other communities in the State but it is also true that we cannot stop atrocities in other parts of the country. We supported the government on our terms and conditions. Prakash Ambedkar has no mass base, which is proved in different elections. We are not competing with him.”
Prakash Pawar, Head of Political Science Department at Shivaji University, Kolhapur, said, “Prakash Ambedkar is getting support from different communities and his leadership is accepted by different communities, including the Marathas. It is a new phenomenon in the State and the Dalit politics. Athawale is part of the government and cannot take a firm stand on different issues like atrocity, Bhima-Koregaon incident etc. This space has been occupied by Ambedkar and it has posed a challenge to Ramdas Athawale’s leadership. Though RPI is saying it is a routine rally, it clearly has the agenda to show its strength before upcoming polls.”
When asked why RPI has chosen Pune for the rally, party leaders said, “They have a strong presence in the city. Besides, Pune is a convenient location for western Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Marathwada areas. Workers can easily reach Pune. Over 50,000 party workers are likely to attend the rally.
Siddharth Dhende, Deputy Mayor of Pune city and senior leader of the party said, “There is a dilemma in people’s mind about the RPI’s stand as we are part of the BJP government. Many negative issues happened but our party has expressed its stand on various issues in bits and pieces. In this rally, we will declare our agenda and our stand so that the public can know better. It will spread widely through our rally, though it is a routine exercise of the party.”