Mumbai: Top Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (SP) leaders soothed the ruffled feathers of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) President Prakash Ambedkar who relented and agreed to join the seat-sharing talks for the Lok Sabha polls.
After Ambedkar’s scathing letter accusing Maharashtra Congress President Nana Patole of playing ‘mind-games’ with a ‘locha’ (muddle) in his brain, NCP (SP) state President Jayant Patil and AICC General Secretary Ramesh Chennithala had a conference call on Thursday evening.
VBA Chief Spokesperson Siddharth Mokle said Chennithala told Ambedkar and Patil that the All India Congress Committee has authorised state Congress leaders Ashok Chavan and Balasaheb Thorat to hold the seat-share talks with the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies.
“Chennithala urged the VBA to participate in the seat-sharing discussions of the MVA and accordingly Ambedkar has accepted the request,” said Mokle in a statement, ending the sensitive issue. Earlier on Thursday afternoon, Ambedkar had spurned outright the MVA’s invite for the seat-share talks today alleging Patole was playing ‘mind games’.
In response to the MVA’s formal invitation, Ambedkar retorted in his reply: “It seems that you (Patole) are playing mind games with the people of Maharashtra or perhaps there is a ‘locha’ in your brain.”
The obvious and hilarious reference was to a popular dialogue on ‘chemical locha’ (chemical muddle) from the 2006 Bollywood blockbuster, “Lage Raho Munnabhai”.
The MVA invite was signed by its top leaders but two-time MP Ambedkar insisted that the letter must be signed by Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, along with NCP (SP) President Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena (UBT) President Uddhav Thackeray. The MVA’s communication pointed out that since Ambedkar is himself speaking on issues like dictatorship and saving the Constitution, he was invited to attend the January 25 meeting on seat-sharing talks.
The grandson of B.R. Ambedkar hit out at Patole, saying that on one hand, Chennithala on Tuesday in Pune explicitly stated that VBA will be included in MVA once the elections are announced, on other hand, “you (Patole) are posting an invitation signed by yourself”.
“The other two signatories (Patil and Raut) in the letter have, concisely and clearly, shared with me in my multiple meetings that the Congress high-command has not bestowed you with any decision-making authority for alliance and coalition-related decisions in Maharashtra,” said the VBA chief.
“In the meetings with Shiv Sena, I have been told that both Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP correspond directly with either Rahul Gandhi and Kharge and does not keep you in the loop because you do not have authority in decision-making in both MVA and INDIA,” Ambedkar said in his sternly-worded letter.
“Has the AICC or the Congress high-command allowed you to take decisions pertaining to coalition and alliance in Maharashtra? On Wednesday, our chief spokesperson Siddharth Mokle very clearly said in Aurangabad that the signatories in any invitation to VBA has to be the presidents of the respective parties in the MVA – Thackeray, Pawar and Kharge,” Ambedkar pointed out.
He said on part of Congress, the letter can be signed by Kharge, Chennithala, Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi — and VBA would attend the seat-sharing negotiations.
Bowing before the VBA demands, the MVA had issued the invite on a letterhead, duly signed by Patole, NCP (SP) state President Jayant Patil and Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Sanjay Raut, for the 48 Lok Sabha seat-sharing in the state, this afternoon (January 25) at a private hotel in Nariman Point.
Mokle reiterated the VBA’s stance that in order to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “it was imperative for all the Opposition parties to unite” for the 2024 parliament polls but the Congress seems to be ‘killing time with new excuses each time’.