Already smarting under a crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress- NCP may have some more adverse tidings on hands with Muslim and Dalit outfits planning to forge an "alternate front" in the coming Maharashtra assembly polls.
Former Lok Sabha MP Prakash Ambedkar, who is Dalit icon Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar's grandson and heads the Bharatiya Republic Paksha- Bahujan Mahasangh (BRP- BMS), the fledging Welfare Party of India (WPI), which has links to the conservative Jamaat-e-Islami-e-Hind, and the influential All India Muslim OBC Organisation (AIMBOC) are among those involved in the exercise.
"We are trying to form a new bloc of voters," Ambedkar, who is known for his social engineering experiments in Akola district, and has two MLAs in the Maharashtra legislature, told dna. "We will be focussing on issues concerning the lives of the common man," said Ambedkar, listing affordable housing for people in Mumbai, housing for the homeless, reducing pricing of medicines and development of urban infrastructure and agro-industries as those on their priority. He added that they were also in touch with the Left parties.
"The Congress always depended on the Muslims and Dalits for votes. We want to break this monopoly... Nothing constructive will come out of their politics unless they are taught a lesson," said Shabbir Ansari of the AIMOBC, adding that they had also joined hands with MLC Kapil Patil of Lok Bharti.
In 1999, in the aftermath of the Sharad Pawar led NCP splitting from the Congress, Ansari had declared his support for the grand old party in return for five seats, namely Bhiwandi, Miraj, Parbhani, Badnera and Nagpada, of which AIMOBC candidates and won three of these on Congress tickets. Muslim OBCs form around 90% of their community.
"We are working to explore a sound alliance. We are in touch with different groups," said WPI national president Mujtaba Farooque, adding that the Muslim community formed around 20- 65% of the population in around 80 seats in the state. "Muslim voters are just a vote bank for the Congress and NCP," said Farooque, adding that they were also looking out for "sincere allies." In the Lok Sabha elections, the WPI had put up candidates in some seats in Maharashtra including Beed, Parbhani and Jalna.
"We are trying to rope in more allies who have some standing and work in the society," explained Ansari, adding that leaders of the parties which will form part of the front were touring the state to drum up public support and holding meetings individually and jointly in places like Faizpur, Basmath, Parbhani, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Aurangabad.
Ambedkar said since banks were not forthcoming with credit for Dalits and tribals, the front agenda of the front would be setting up a bank for them and also making it mandatory for only those people who had stayed in Mumbai for a minimum of 10 years to get licenses to operate public transport like taxis. He added that they would come out with a blue print which would also include issues like eco-friendly tourism.