D for Dignity, new X factor

Dr Jadhav has been campaigning for Praveen Pawar, a candidate for the Nashik Lok Sabha seat fielded by the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi

By Basant Kumar Mohanty in Nashik
  • Published 29.04.19, 7:38 AM
  • Updated 29.04.19, 7:38 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Prakash Ambedkar campaigns for the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi candidate in Satara on April 21, 2019. (PTI)

His grandfather’s name was Kachrya meaning rubbish, father’s name Damu signifying indignity, and he is Sanjay — which means triumphant.

Dr Sanjay Jadhav, an orthopaedic surgeon, was narrating his story to a group of people under the scorching sun in Nashik, explaining how Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar gave identity to many castes that were treated as socially backward. Jadhav has been campaigning for Praveen Pawar, a candidate for the Nashik Lok Sabha seat fielded by the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) — founded last month by Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Ambedkar.

“We became human beings after Dr Ambedkar’s birth. We got names and identity. We want dignity,” Jadhav said. “The VBA is a movement to reform Hinduism to ensure dignity of life for all.”

The VBA has found an alliance partner in the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) and has fielded candidates in 47 of Maharashtra’s 48 Lok Sabha seats. The MIM has fielded its candidate from Aurangabad.

Scheduled Castes (SC), who make up 9 per cent of Maharashtra’s population, form the core support base for the VBA. The Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Muslims account for 9 and 11.5 per cent of the state’s population, respectively. The VBA has support from these sections in some of the seats. Jadhav said the VBA has also sizable support from the Dhangar community, an OBC caste which has been demanding ST status.

Archana Chandrakant Pawar, sister of the VBA’s Nashik candidate Pawan Pawar, said the party would take up the cause of education and jobs.

“Education has become very costly. The government and municipal schools are suffering. The upper-caste people provide tuition to their children. The lower-caste children do not get jobs. If we are represented we will solve all these issues,” she said.

Before the VBA was formed, Prakash Ambedkar had set up the Bahujan Mahasangh which contested all the 288 Assembly seats in Maharashtra in 2014. The party had got over 3 per cent votes. He formed the VBA after his talks with the Congress and the NCP failed. Prakash is contesting from Solapur and Akola.

“Dr Ambedkar gave us political equality. We have not achieved social and economic equality. The fight will go on,” Jadhav said. He cited the example of the Congress’s Nandurbar candidate, Kagadya Chandya Padvi. Kagadya means “black like coal” and Chandya means “wound”. “This name suggests rejection of a man by the society,” said Jadhav.

Padvi is from the Bhill community, who belong to the ST.

Sudesh Ghoderao, a chemistry professor in Nashik, said the VBA’s candidates are giving a positive outlook to the campaign.

“The VBA’s fight is for self-respect of the people who have been suppressed. That is why people are with this movement,” Ghoderao said.

Nitin Maruti Ubale, in Surudi village of Beed district, said he would vote for the VBA irrespective of its poll prospects. “Babasaheb gave us the Constitution. He gave us rights. We will stand with Prakash Ambedkar,” Ubale said.

His middle name is part of a tradition — of names that undermine dignity. Maruti means monkey in Marathi.

The Congress and the NCP were banking on getting most of the SC, ST and OBC votes, but the buzz is that the VBA may damage the prospects of Congress-NCP candidates in seats such as Sangli, Solapur, Akola, Nanded, Parvani, Chandrapur, Buldhana, Dhule and Latur. The BSP and SP, who also bank on the backward classes’ support, have also fielded candidates in all the 48 eats.

“The VBA will indirectly benefit the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in many seats,” said political analyst Ajit Abhaynkar. “The VBA may also eat into the BJP’s vote share in a few seats like Baramati, Shirur, and Madha where many Dhangar people live. The community had entirely supported the BJP last time.”

Nashik votes today