Dalit party fails to win over vote bank
Zeeshan Shaikh, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, February 18, 2012
Dalit voters, who have historically swayed between the Congress and
the Republican Party of India (RPI), appear to have played a role in
propelling the Shiv Sena-BJP combine into the numero uno position in
the civic body this election.
The biggest sufferers of Dalit antagonism
seem to have been the Congress and the RPI.
Dalits constitute nearly 15-18% of Mumbai's electorate. Their vote
plays a decisive role in nearly 60 constituencies in the city.
"The Congress-NCP combine seemed to have been taking Dalit voters for
granted. Many thought it made sense to give the Sena-BJP a chance,"
said Dalit activist Pramod Sakhare. The Sena appears to have done well
in the Dalit pockets of Wadala, Worli and Mankhurd.
"Dalit votes played a decisive role in getting us where we are," Sena
executive president Uddhav Thackeray admitted. He had taken a gamble
when he got Ramdas Athawale's RPI on board, but the Sena will now look
at a long-term alliance with the RPI.
Dalit voters also seemed to have found a new alternative in Raj
Thackeray's MNS. Pockets such as Kannamwar Nagar, Kamraj Nagar and
Ramabai Nagar voted resoundingly in favour of the party. "People are
tired of the old options. Many felt it was time we backed a fresh,
dynamic entity like Raj," said Santosh Sonawane, an activist from
The RPI, which contested 29 seats, managed to win only one. In 2007 it
had won three seats. Putting up a brave face, Athawale claimed the
alliance had come to power despite RPI's poor show. "Ambedkar
followers played a huge role in ensuring the defeat of the
Congress-NCP. We need to contemplate on why we performed so badly."
Political analysts believe people turned their backs on the RPI as
they thought it was compromising on its ideology.
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