Mumbai: Dalit leader and Union minister Ramdas Athawale today said he would contest the 2019 general elections from the Mumbai South Central seat, currently held by the Shiv Sena. The Union Minister of State for Social Welfare and Empowerment made the remarks at a meeting of his Republican Party of India (Athawale) at his suburban Bandra residence here.
“During the meeting, Athawale expressed his desire to contest from the Mumbai South Central constituency,” Mumbai unit RPI(A) president Gautam Sonawane said. He said Athawale also directed the party workers to start preparing for the elections.
The RPI(A) is a constituent of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre and in Maharashtra. Athawale eyeing the Mumbai South Central Seat is likely to raise hackles of the Shiv Sena.
The seat is currently represented by Rahul Shewale of the Shiv Sena, an estranged NDA ally who has repeatedly attacked the Modi government over various issues. The Sena has said it will go solo in next year’s elections.
Athawale, who wields clout in some Dalit pockets of Maharashtra, had last month announced that the RPI(A) would field candidates of other communities in half of the total seats it will contest from in the 2019 general elections.
The RPI(A) has no representation in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. The party, however, enjoys a loyal following among the Dalit youths.
Mumbai South Central constituency comprises six Vidhan Sabha segments including Dalit pockets of Dharavi and Chembur. Other segments include Anushakti Nagar, Sion-Koliwada, Wadala and Mahim.
President of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh party Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of B R Ambedkar, is another prominent leader of the Dalits, who are scattered among various groups in the state. Out of the total six Lok Sabha seats in Mumbai, the Shiv Sena and the BJP had won three each in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Athawale had lost Lok Sabha elections in 2009 from Shirdi constituency in Ahmednagar district against Bhausaheb Wakchaure of the Shiv Sena by a margin of more than one lakh votes. After the loss, the Dalit leader joined forces with the BJP for the 2014 elections.