Telangana polls: Dalits leaders reach out to Prakash Ambedkar, mull new party

Many of those who want to join this new outfit are also ex-Republican Party of India (RPI) members, a party founded by Dr B R Ambedkar, which today has several splinter groups.
Prakash Ambedkar with Telangana CM during the inauguration of the 125 feet Dr BR Ambedkar statue in Hyderabad
Prakash Ambedkar with Telangana CM during the inauguration of the 125 feet Dr BR Ambedkar statue in Hyderabad
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Fed up with a lack of proportionate representation in mainstream political parties, a section of Dalit leaders from Telangana are contemplating forging a new political alliance and contest in the upcoming state elections. The new organisation is reportedly close to taking shape and in talks with Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) leader and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief from Maharashtra, Prakash Ambedkar, to seek his support. Ambedkar will be in Telangana’s Dharmapuri on October 28, and further talks are likely then. 

“As of now, these Dalit leaders have managed to form 17 district committees, and they have expressed their desire to come together,” said a senior Dalit leader who did not want to be named. He added that Prakash Ambedkar has agreed to help or support this front if it decides to contest the upcoming Telangana Assembly elections. Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of India’s first Union Law and Justice Minister, Dr BR Ambedkar, came to Hyderabad in June to inaugurate a statue of his grandfather. He also addressed a public meeting in Adilabad, where he offered his support to any anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) front.

The Dalit leader from Telangana also told TNM that many of those who want to be part of this new outfit are also ex-Republican Party of India (RPI) members, a party founded by Ambedkar, which today has several splinter groups. Prakash Ambedkar’s BBM emerged from that in the 1990s, and the VBA was formed as a coalition of several political and social outfits in Maharashtra before the 2019 General Elections. The ex-RPI Dalit leaders who have come forward for this initiative are staunch supporters of BR Ambedkar and have sought support from the grandson. 

Given that Maharashtra shares a border with some of north Telangana’s districts like Nizamabad and Adilabad, Prakash Ambedkar may have an impact if he decides to enter the political arena in the coming election. Telangana will go to polls on November 30, and results will be declared on December 3. The ruling BRS is in direct contest with the main opposition party, Congress, while the BJP is also likely to up a fight in some of the 119 constituencies. 

“Of 59 Scheduled Caste (SC) groups in Telangana, the Malas and Madigas are the biggest communities. The rest of the Dalit communities are those who want to start this new organisation,” the Dalit leader told TNM. In Telangana, the total SC population is believed to be around 16%, of which Malas and Madigas form about 11%, he added.

When contacted, Prakash Ambedkar said he is currently in talks with Dalit leaders but did not share more details. A concrete plan for the new organisation is likely to emerge after Ambedkar’s next visit to Dharmapuri in Nizamabad district on October 28. Ambedkar’s VBA also reportedly reached out to Bahujan Samaj Party’s Telangana president and ex-IPS officer R S Praveen Kumar, but it has not resulted in anything concrete so far. BSP announced its first list of candidates earlier this month. 

Similarly, Vimuktha Chiruthala Kakshi, the Telugu name for the Tamil Nadu-based Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), or the Liberation Panthers Party, had also earlier announced its plans to contest in the upcoming Telangana polls. VCK’s head and MP Thol Thirumavalavan, has joined hands with the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in TN and Congress. Interestingly, the VCK in Telangana has extended support to the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), whose main rival is Congress. 

Prakash Ambedkar’s VBA in Maharashtra also had a major impact in the 2019 General Elections, as it secured 42 lakh votes (nearly 7% vote share), primarily affecting the Congress-Nationalist Congress party (NCP) alliance. The VBA and Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) formed an alliance, allowing the AIMIM to win the Aurangabad Lok Sabha polls. However, in the following state elections, Ambedkar and the AIMIM went their separate ways due to differences in seat-sharing.

The VBA chief also earlier in August told TNM that he is open to talks with BRS supremo and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) for a possible alliance in Maharashtra. Over the last six months, KCR has been trying to make inroads into the neighbouring state and has even set up offices in bordering districts. So far, he has not made any announcements, which leaves the field open for Prakash Ambedkar in the upcoming Telangana elections to do something with the Dalit groups.

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