Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh president Prakash Ambedkar says mainstream parties have always tried to win over Dalits with emotions. The grandson of BR Ambedkar tells Shubhangi Khapre that this will not work anymore. Excerpts from the interview:
How do you look at Dalit politics ahead of the polls?
The so-called grand alliance of the Shiv Sena-BJP-RPI may not result in transfer of Dalit votes to the saffron brigade. This is evident as RPI(A) chief Ramdas Athawale is the lone campaigner in the Dalit pockets. The second-rung leaders associated with Dalit organisations are distancing themselves from the grand alliance. Similarly, Congress-NCP's attempt to rake emotive issues like the Indu Mill land for Chaityabhoomi will not work.
Why did you refuse an alliance with Congress-NCP?
There were sharp differences between us on several development issues which could not be resolved. So we decided to field just 42 seats where we feel we can make a difference. We concentrated in the Vidarbha region in the zilla parishad and municipal corporation elections.
Will the MNS hold the key to form the BMC?
No. In 40 seats which are MNS strongholds, there are two to three rebels in the fray. Congress leader Kripashankar Singh is facing challenges from supporters of senior leader such as Gurudas Kamat, Priya Dutt (MP) and Sanjay Nirupam (MP). Moreover, the Congress and the NCP are at loggerheads over several seats. There is also a power tussle within the NCP between Ajit Pawar versus Chhagan Bhujbal-backed candidates in the field.
What is now needed for the city's development?
Primarily, there is no land available for construction in the city. The only way ahead is through redevelopment of slums that provide additional space for commercial and social welfare projects. I believe slum redevelopment should be undertaken by Mhada which can allocate houses of 400-450 sqft instead of 280-300 sqft. The government's decision to rope in private players is against public interest. If we consider redevelopment of all the slums identified through Mhada, it will generate revenue of Rs50,000 crore. After accommodating legal residents, the additional space could be auctioned for commercial utility by the government to earn revenue.
[Courtesy: DNA, February 14, 2012]