Prakash Ambedkar tells Sagarika Ghose he will lead the ‘people-versus-family’ fight. He calls the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi a new force in Maharashtra, born as a social alliance with a political aim

Will your tie-up with AIMIM cut into Congress-NCP votes and benefit BJP?

Our alliance is designed to make a dent in BJP-RSS votes. From caste point of view, the Maratha Morcha broke away from other social outfits for its resentments against Dalit and OBC reservations and opposition to the SC/ST Act.

In 2017-18, Marathas took to the streets against the gang rape of a woman in Ahmadnagar. They demanded abolition of the SC/ ST Act, saying Dalits are not punished for their crimes and sought reservation. They are the main support base of both the Congress-NCP as well as BJP. Now, they are isolated. OBCs have been antagonised.

The Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi is a people’s movement of Dalits, smaller OBCs, OBCs and SCs. Congress-NCP hasn’t taken any stand in Maharashtra this time. There is a Congress-NCP-BJP match-fixing. We are the main opposition as our alliance is an attempt to cobble together smaller BCs, OBCs and SCs, which are about 50%-55% of the total population.

Is it true that you were keen for an alliance with Congress?

Congress seems to have been blackmailed by BJP not to fight against the saffron party. Look at the way Congress is missing out on alliance opportunities everywhere. The family is under probe, and the top leadership seems to be under pressure to ensure that there is no joint opposition against BJP.

Does Dalit-Muslim unity work anymore? Many years ago a similar experiment was attempted with Dalits and Haji Mastan, named Dalit Muslim Suraksha Mahasangh.

I had nothing to do with that. It was a committee started by Professor Jogendra Kawade. It did not work out because neither side was committed to the cause. It was more a political alliance, rather than a social one.

The Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi is a combine of small OBCs and SCs, in which Owaisi and his followers, not all of them are Muslims, have joined. It is rather a social alliance with a political aim and a new force in Maharashtra. We have our work cut out — I will look after vanchit people and he will work with Muslims — and we have a national goal in mind. So, it’s not a communal force. We are fighting dynasty politics of both BJP and the Congress-NCP combine. It’s a fight for people-versus-family.

Why did you form the alliance with AIMIM?

Dalits and Muslims are against BJP. They will vote strategically to defeat BJP in Maharashtra and across the country. I have asked leaders not to spend funds on MBCs or SCs or STs as they have already made up their minds. That’s because of the ‘nanga-naach’ of discrimination and physical attacks. Resistance to ‘Manuwad’ is very strong now.

Hasn’t the Dalit movement split in Maharashtra?

It is a people’s movement, not led by a single party. It is now one of the biggest people’s movements in the country. Smaller OBCs have become active by joining Dalit outfits. It is a new socio-economic movement with potential to change the national scenario. The Dalit movement lacks articulation of issues at the national level. There is a leadership vacuum. Leaders are not willing to listen to intellectuals. Many Dalit scholars have gone into a shell because some supported BJP or Congress and they don’t have a face to show now after violence by ‘Manuwad’ forces.