Ramdas Athawale’s RPI prepares to sup with Shiv Sena, BJP


Mumbai : Signalling a potential re-alignment of political forces in Maharashtra, a prominent Dalit party Monday agreed to join hands with the saffron brigade on common issues to counter the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party ruling combine.

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Republican Party of India (RPI) chief Ramdas Athavale met Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and executive president Uddhav to finalise the proposed understanding with his (RPI) party.

However, a formal announcement on the understanding and the details of the likely political partnership, will be made only by October this year, Athawale said.

Many of the Dalit factions, including the RPI, have traditionally allied with the Congress or the NCP in the state since the past three decades.

Monday’s meeting followed a similar one with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Nitin Gadkari in Mumbai last Friday where the latter made an offer to Athawale to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Earlier, Thackeray warmly welcomed the combination of forces comprising ‘Shiv Shakti’ and ‘Bhim Shakti’ to annihilate the ruling Democratic Front government of the Congress and the NCP.

Thackeray said if the Congress “has to be buried,” the two forces – ‘Shiv Shakti’ and ‘Bhim Shakti’ – must join hands, Thackeray said in his ‘welcome’ editorial in Monday’s party mouthpiece, Saamna.

Incidentally, the proposed new combination – Dalits and Hinduists – will undergo its first political test in the forthcoming civic body elections in the state, including the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), early 2012.

Currently, the BMC is ruled by the Sena-BJP combine and it is making attempts to re-capture the country’s richest civic body.

However, the Congress-NCP, including Congress strongman and Industry Minister Narayan Rane, are expected to make a determined effort to snatch it back from the saffron combine.

This time, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), led by Thackeray’s estranged nephew Raj Thackeray is likely to make his party’s presence felt in the civic elections.

The Shiv Sena believes that with the RPI on its side, the Congress, the NCP and the MNS could face tough times in the civic elections, especially since there are several Dalit pockets and strongholds around the city.