Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday announced that his faction of the Shiv Sena has allied with the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) of Prakash Ambedkar, a move seen as a shot in the arm for the leader in the run-up to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections slated to be held later this year.
“Today is 23rd January, the birth anniversary of Balasaheb Thackeray. I am satisfied and happy that several people of Maharashtra wanted us to come together. Prakash Ambedkar and I are here today to form an alliance,” Uddhav said announcing the alliance on Monday. Prakash Ambedkar is the grandson of Bhim Rao Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Constitution of India.
Invoking the Ambedkar-Thackeray connection, Uddhav Thackeray said the two leaders were colleagues and fought together on a number of social issues. “Now, their future generations are here to fight on current issues of the country,” he said.
Addressing a press conference in Mumbai to announce the alliance, Prakash Ambedkar said the alliance marks the “beginning of a new politics” in the country. “We have been organising protests on social issues. Whether we win on social issues or not is in the hands of voters, but giving such people a seat to contest is in the hands of the political parties,” he said.
Ambedkar, however, added that no other constituent of the Maha Vikas Aghadi was with them at the moment. “Congress hasn’t accepted the alliance yet. I hope Sharad Pawar will also join the alliance,” he said.
The alliance will face off against the BJP-Shinde Sena-RPI combine in the upcoming BMC elections, the first test since the upheaval last year that led to the fall of the MVA government in Maharashtra. The battle for control over the BMC will be a key prestige fight between the two warring factions of the Shiv Sena ahead of the assembly elections slated for 2024.
BMC is the richest civic body in the country with an annual budget of around Rs 46,000 crore for 2022-23.
The announcement on Monday ends speculation over a tie-up between Ambedkar and the Shinde Sena after a two-hour closed-door meeting between the CM and the VBA leader took many by surprise.