But some RPI (A) supporters don’t want to depend on saffron parties
Pune: Amidst blue flags with ‘Jai Bhim’ on them, thousands of supporters of the Republican Party of India (A) thronged the SSPMS grounds for the RPI (A)’s State-wide conference, where party chief Ramdas Athawale tried to rejuvenate his followers and send a message to rival factions through a show of strength.
Athawale has time and again justified his stance on the alliance with the Shiv Sena first and then the BJP, though according to the opinion of some people, both parties are ideologically the antithesis of Ambedkarism. This time too, Athawale said he will remain with the BJP for the 2019 elections. He focused more on snatching a share of power for himself, his supporters and Dalits.
“We have always found help in the RPI. Whenever there have been attacks on us in our villages, whenever we have needed help, the RPI and Athawale Saheb have always stood by us, which is why we cannot think of betraying the party,” said Tanaji Waghmare from Malavli village in Malshiras taluka, adding, “We have been party members for 12 years now.”
Athawale has always had a reputation of being accessible and helpful to any person who approaches him, which is why many a times though many people do not approve his seemingly opportunistic maneuvers, they stay connected to him as he is one of the few Dalit leaders who can help them. Recently, Athawale’s focus has been on expanding his party base to other castes as well.
“We have no issues with him demanding a share in power. We have been ignored by the Congress as well as the NCP and other parties. They have repeatedly betrayed us. But at the same time, we do not want Athawale Saheb to entertain the BJP,” said Balasaheb Pungale, adding, “It is like sharing a house with the enemy. We do not like Athawale going with parties which are our enemies at the local level.”
“We would rather he focus on strengthening our party. We will work tirelessly for it. We will put in whatever we can. He should not make us dependent on others. He should make our party independent,” said Waghmare and Pungale.
Athawale went through the programme accompanied by BJP leaders like State Social Justice Minister Dilip Kamble, District Guardian Minister Girish Bapat and Mayor Mukta Tilak. While the singers sang Bhim Geet (songs on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar) saying, “While the lawmaker was Ambedkar, Gandhi got a place on the Rupee note, Ambedkar’s depiction would have raised the glamour of the note.” Athawale seemed lost in his moment of power, albeit flanked by the BJP.