Babasaheb Ambedkar’s memorial on the 12.5 acres Indu Mills land is increasingly turning into a turf war among the mainstream parties out to consolidate their individual Dalit vote bank in Mumbai.
In a strategic shift, the state BJP has decided to join hands with the Republican Party of India (RPI), led by Ramdas Athavale, to hijack the Dalit issue from the Congress.
Leader of the Opposition in state council Vinod Tawde said, “BJP has decided to launch an agitation as the Centre and state government are exploiting the sentiments of Dalits by making promises and not fulfilling them.”
The BJP knows that Dalits across Maharashtra, including Mumbai, have always remained loyal to the Congress. Dalit writer Arjun Dangle said, “In a progressive state like Maharashtra one feels hurt to see mainstream parties politicising Ambedkar’s memorial. All political parties should have set aside their ideologies and joined hands and worked for the grand memorial.”
The Dalits have never considered the BJP as their natural ally. Riding the memorial plank, the state BJP is trying to send across a message to the Dalits. The party’s limited objective is to create doubt and ill will in the minds of the Dalits for the Congress and NCP by hammering the point that the two parties aren’t really interested in parting with the prime land for Ambedkar’s memorial.
The BJP wants to impress upon the Dalits how the Congress government, which takes 24 hours to hand over prime land to real estate developers, has been debating for the past 10 years on the Indu Mills land for the memorial.
Sensing the Shiv Sena and MNS’s dilemma over development of the land for the memorial following protest from locals, the BJP wants to take advantage of this. Sources in the BJP admitted, “By issuing support for the memorial, the BJP has nothing to lose. Those who protested against the memorial are Sena/MNS’s vote bank. However, BJP’s support to the memorial will help it soften up the Dalits who have always considered the party as a political untouchable in state.