Congress will pull out of MVA, says Athawale


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‘Uddhav Thackeray-led govt. in Maharashtra will soon collapse’

Stating that Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut’s demand that NCP chief Sharad Pawar lead the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had driven a wedge between the Sena, NCP and Congress in Maharashtra, Union Minister Ramdas Athawale on Tuesday predicted that the Congress would pull out of the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi and the Uddhav Thackeray-led government would soon fall.

“Mr. Raut demanded that the UPA presidency be given to Mr. Pawar. However, the Sena is not part of the UPA. As a result, there is resentment within the Congress leadership. I think the Congress will withdraw its support from the MVA government and it will collapse,” said Mr. Athawale, who is the Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment.

The Republican Party of India (A) president was speaking in Aurangabad as part of his State-wide tour to rebuild his party’s sagging fortunes in Maharashtra.

Commenting on the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) notice to Mr. Raut’s wife, Varsha Raut, Mr. Athawale said, “If Mr. Raut is not afraid of the notice as he claims, then he should have no hesitation in facing the ED summons.”

Mr. Athawale, who is a constituent of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA, further claimed that the Sena would be unseated in the upcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation election.

Mr. Athawale’s leadership of the Ambedkarite community in the State has been seriously challenged in the last few years by Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, with the latter seeming to hold sway over the hearts and minds of the community.

The steady erosion of his core voter base has prompted the RPI (A) chief — known more for his light-hearted, poetic banter in Parliament — to belatedly tour the State and begin on a recruitment drive to strengthen his party.

Hitting out at Mr. Ambedkar, Mr. Athawale said that the former had played with the Dalit voters, but the former’s tactics had yielded no tangible electoral result in the October 2019 Assembly election.

“He [Mr. Ambedkar] contested 288 seats in the Assembly poll but failed to win a single seat. If Mr. Ambedkar does not want to unite with us, then he should at least support the NDA so that we can all work together,” Mr. Athawale, whose party performed equally dismally in the election, said.

He dismissed suggestions that the farmers’ agitation was a pan-Indian one, saying that only farmers from Punjab were involved in the protests on the Delhi border.

“Farmers from other states are not participating in this agitation. The farmers should compromise…while it is a good thing that Mr. Pawar is holding a meeting of all Opposition parties on this issue, he should specify what reforms the Opposition does precisely want in these new agriculture laws,” Mr. Athawale said.

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