The Bhima-Koregaon violence incident and the Maharashtra bandh called by Dalit outfits are likely to alter caste equations in the state. According to sources, NCP leader Sharad Pawar is the mastermind for fuelling the violence to drift away Dalit voters from BJP. Through this act, Pawar is trying to make opposition stronger against the ruling party BJP. With an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Pawar is keen to have alliance with various political parties to upset BJP’s chances of retaining power in the centre. He already has sharpened the attack against right wing outfits and blamed them for the violence incidents. Dalits, who had traditionally known for voting for Congress and NCP, had shifted their loyalties towards BJP during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. BJP also had joined hands with Ramdas Athawale’s Republican Party of India (A) which enabled the party to win Dalit votes at several places. However, the scenario has changed after the Bhima Koregaon violence as Dalits have distanced themselves from BJP. Since BJP doesn’t have a prominent Dalit face in Maharashtra, the party will have to rely on Ramdas Athawale to woo the community. After the recent violent incidents in Maharashtra BJP faces an uphill task to lure Dalits.
When AV spoke to Nawab Malik, NCP spokesperson he said, “All the allegations made against Sharad Pawar are baseless. BJP is spreading rumours to conceal their failure to control the agitation. There is no valid proof that Pawar had orchestrated the Bhima Koregaon agitation.”
Sanjay Nirupam, Mumbai Congress Chief said, “No other person except Pawar can assure if he really wants opposition to come together and emerge stronger against BJP on the recent Dalit agitation issue. Bhima Koregaon violence is a pre-planned attack initiated by RSS and BJP against Dalits. Dalits were just celebrating the victory of Bhima Koregaon battle and this attack on them was totally condemnable. RSS follows anti-Dalit philosophy and they don’t want them to progress, be happy and come forward in the society. People who are arrested or whose names feature in FIR list belong to either RSS or BJP.”
Dalits are also upset with the manner in which the government handled the violence and bandh incidents.
Abu Azmi, Samajwadi Party leader said, “The statement issued by Sharad Pawar about Bhima Koregaon incident is right. Hindutva outfits consider Brahmins superior to Dalits and Muslims and the recent agitation shows how government has failed miserably as entire Mumbai had come to a standstill and police officials remained mute spectators all during the bandh day. If the government is concerned about the welfare of Dalits and Muslims, then they should increase reservation provided to them. If Dalits and Muslims unite against Hindutva groups in Maharashtra, then all these chaos creating groups will be powerless in the state.” Dalits constitute around 10 per cent of the state’s population and can play a decisive role in turning around political parties’ fortunes in the 2019 general election.
Kashiram Vechan Pawara, Congress MLA said, “I am not well aware about the agitation that happened across Maharashtra and comments made by Pawar. However, I don’t feel that there is any possibility of Pawar being the mastermind of Bhima Koregaon agitation.”
Ashish Shelar, Mumbai BJP chief said, “Whatever speculations are being made about Pawar needs to be verified first before commenting.”