The alliance between Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi and Hyderabad-based Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) polled nearly 14 per cent of votes in Maharashtra in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The alliance won only the Aurangabad Lok Sabha seat where AIMIM got its first MP from Maharashtra. But its candidates polled more votes than the victory margins of BJP candidates in seven other Lok Sabha constituencies. Moreover, the VBA ensured the defeat of two former chief ministers — Ashok Chavan in Nanded and Sushilkumar Shinde in Solapur.
Even as the Congress-NCP alliance is hoping to bring the VBA and AIMIM under its umbrella, Mr Ambedkar, who has emerged as a giant killer, in an interview says his alliance with Mr Owaisi will be the bigger challenge for the BJP-Shiv Sena in the upcoming polls.
Which are the seats or region the VBA-AIMIM alliance will focus on in Maharashtra?
We are hopeful that we will win from all parts of Maharashtra. We can’t specify from which regions we are going to get more seats. Our alliance is emerging as an alternative political force across the state. The fact that we gained 14 per cent of the vote share in Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha elections was a great achievement. But we are going to do better in the Assembly elections. In fact, we will be a bigger challenger to the BJP-Shiv Sena than the Congress-NCP.
After the Lok Sabha elections, you felt that the AIMIM candidates received Dalit votes, but the VBA failed to garner Muslim votes. Does this mean that the VBA will have a different strategy for the Assembly polls?
We have a good relationship with the AIMIM. Workers of both political parties are working for the alliance wholeheartedly. It is true that the VBA did not get the expected Muslim votes. But this time we are working towards it. There will be a separate strategy to attract Muslim votes. We are still working on it. We do not want to disclose all our cards this early. However, our strategy will clearly be visible closer to the elections.
Congress keeps calling you BJP’s ‘B-team’. How are you going to counter that?
It is true that they call us BJP’s B-team. But it is also true that they are already in tatters and are eager to have an alliance with us. We will respond to their barbs in the upcoming election. The Congress-NCP alliance is a weakened force while our alliance is on the rise.
BJP president Amit Shah has been most effective at splitting opponents’ vote banks. Are you ready to form an alliance with Congress-NCP to stop BJP?
Mr Shah did not split our vote banks. It is none of my business what he does with other (party’s) vote banks. But he will fail to break the VBA-AIMIM vote bank. As far as the alliance with the Congress is concerned, they have to take the decision quickly. Once we declare our candidates, we will not go back to the negotiation table for another alliance. There are several questions I have asked them but they are yet to clarify their stand. But first, they have to stop calling us BJP’s ‘B-team’.