Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief Prakash Ambedkar has expressed his willingness to join the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) coalition of Opposition parties.
"We will join the INDIA coalition if we are invited," Ambedkar told The Quint, over telephone.
Expressing his ideological commitment to defeating the BJP, Ambedkar said, "We are committed to defeating the BJP and right wing forces. For that aim, we are willing to join forces with the INDIA coalition".
However, Ambedkar said that there has been no invitation from the Congress or any of the other parties that are part of the INDIA coalition in Maharashtra, namely the Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
On 19 August, Ambedkar posted on X (formerly Twitter), "Na kabootar, na phone. Kuchh nahi aaya (Neither pigeon, nor phone. Nothing has come)".
"This is the patent modus operandi of the Congress. Without establishing correspondence they go around telling people that it happened," he added.
Why Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi Matters
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the VBA had contested in alliance with Asaduddin Owaisi's All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). The VBA had contested 47 seats while the AIMIM had contested from the Aurangabad Lok Sabha seat. The alliance secured a vote share of 7.65 percent across Maharashtra and managed to win 1 seat, AIMIM's Imtiyaz Jaleel from Aurangabad.
More significantly, in as many as seven seats, the votes secured by the VBA were more than the NDA's margin of victory over the UPA.
These seats were: Buldhana, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Nanded, Parbhani, Solapur, Sangli and Hatkangale.
The VBA managed to win over a chunk of Dalit, Muslim and Adivasi voters in that election and enjoys some support among these sections.
The VBA-AIMIM alliance broke up soon after. The VBA contested alone in the Assembly elections and secured a vote share of 4.6 percent votes.
Why is There Reluctance from the MVA?
Earlier this year, the Shiv Sena UBT and the VBA had discussed formation of an alliance. More recently, Shiv Sena UBT MLA and Akola district president Nitin Deshmukh made a statement saying, "We should make Prakash Ambedkar victorious from Akola".
Apparently, the problem lies more with the Congress and the NCP.
The NCP and the VBA, however, have been critical of each other. Partly this is to do with the fact that the NCP has a strong base among the dominant Maratha community and the VBA mainly stands for the interests of oppressed communities.
However, VBA insiders say that ideology and base may not be the main problem as the UPA includes the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, that is inspired by the Dalit Panthers of India.
"Prakash Ambedkar and Sharad Pawar have been publicly critical of each other. This is well known. But they are both mature politicians and can work together for a larger aim," a VBA functionary told The Quint, adding that the main roadblock may actually be from within the Congress.
Sources within the VBA say that Prakash Ambedkar shares a good equation with a number of senior Congress leaders in the state, such as Ashok Chavan and Balasaheb Thorat.
A Maharashtra Congress leader told The Quint that an alliance with VBA is "definitely under consideration" but the final call will be "taken by the central leadership", mainly party president Mallikarjun Kharge.
During the Karnataka elections, Kharge had taken personal initiative in reaching out to several Dalit Bahujan groups for support against the BJP. According to surveys, the Congress had managed to secure about two-thirds of the Dalit votes in the state.
As the next INDIA coalition meeting in Mumbai for 31 August draws closer, the speculation about newer entrants in the MVA is likely to increase.