Prakash Ambedkar-led VBA split Opposition votes in Lok Sabha election, but vote share gives party hope ahead of Maharashtra Assembly polls
Even though the Prakash Ambedkar-led VBA failed to win any seats in the Lok Sabha polls, vote share shows party may hope to open its account in the Maharashtra Assembly election
Even though poll data suggests Prakash Ambedkar's Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi split Opposition votes, the party got significant vote share in several constituencies
The vote share in the Lok Sabha polls is good news for the VBA, which is hopeful of opening its account in the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly polls
The vote share also gives the VBA more bargaining power in a possible alliance with the Congress and NCP for the Assembly election
VBA's role in splitting Opposition votes is much clearer in Nanded, where the combined vote share of VBA and Congress was significantly higher than BJP, which won the seat
While the Lok Sabha election battle in Maharashtra was primarily between the NDA and the UPA, it was also noteworthy due to political debut of the newly-formed Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi. Poll data suggests that the Prakash Ambedkar-led VBA may have split the Opposition votes and indirectly ensured an NDA win in seven out of 48 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state. However, the data also suggests that the party got a significant vote share in several constituencies, which would come as good news for it in the lead-up to Assembly elections in the state.
Elections to the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly are likely to take place in October this year.
The seats where the combined vote share of the chief Opposition party (and its allies) and the VBA would have been more than that of the NDA candidate were Buldhana, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Hatkanagale, Nanded, Parbhani, Sangli and Solapur. Each of these Lok Sabha seats have six Assembly segments, which means that the above Lok Sabha seats would cover 42 Assembly constituencies.
Out of these, two seats had former chief ministers as Congress candidates, namely Ashok Chavan (Nanded) and Sushil Kumar Shinde (Solapur). Both lost the electoral battle. Notably, Chavan, who had won the Lok Sabha election in Maharashtra in 2014, may have lost the 2019 polls due to a split in the Opposition's votes.
Of course, it cannot be said with certainty that the NDA would have lost in all the seven Lok Sabha seats mentioned above if the VBA had not fielded a candidate, as all the votes that the latter garnered would not necessarily have gone into the UPA's kitty. This is particularly relevant for Solapur, where the combined vote share of the Congress and the VBA was 49.46 percent, only marginally ahead of the BJP's vote share of 48.41 percent. However, the split in the Opposition votes had a much clearer effect in Nanded, where the BJP’s Prataprao Chikhalikar won the contest with a vote share of 43.1 percent. The combined vote share of the Congress’ Ashok Chavan and the VBA’s Yashpal Bhinge was significantly higher, at 54.27 percent.
|Vote share in 2019 Lok Sabha polls in seven seats|
In these 42 Assembly seats, the combined average vote share of the VBA (14.6 percent) and the Congress-NCP alliance (36.35 percent) during the Lok Sabha polls was 51 percent, whereas that of the Shiv Sena and BJP alliance was 45.1 percent.
Keeping in mind that the Congress-NCP and the VBA were considering an alliance (and still are considering it in the lead-up to the Assembly election), it is clear that the Ambedkar-led party has a political plank that is primarily opposed to the BJP and Shiv Sena.
Ambedkar, speaking to Firstpost about the results of the Lok Sabha election, said, “The Congress and NCP seem to believe that the common people are slaves. They do not believe that in a democracy, all the people have a right to express their views. The people have made their verdict clear to them, and have told them that the days of monarchy are over. The Congress and NCP must change their approach.”
On 26 May, Ambedkar had said in a tweet, “If the Congress wants to carry out discussions with the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi in the future, then it must do so on an equal footing.”
काँग्रेसला या पुढे वंचित बहुजन आघाडीसोबत चर्चा करायची असेल, तर ती समसमान पातळीवर येऊनच करावी लागेल. कारण कॉंग्रेससोबत राजकीय गुलामीची व्यवस्था संपली आहे.
— Prakash Ambedkar (@Prksh_Ambedkar) May 26, 2019
Speaking on the division in the Opposition's vote share, BJP leader and spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said, "The statistics of the election results speak for themselves. The division of votes played a role in only a few seats. Therefore, a blanket statement that a divide in the Opposition camp helped the NDA would not be correct. In the state elections too, our strategy against the Congress-NCP and the VBA will be the same as it was in the Lok Sabha polls."
On the whole, the VBA has reason to believe that it has emerged as a significant political player in the state of Maharashtra. Anjali Maydeo, social activist and the wife of Ambedkar, said, "The party was registered in March, and in such a short while, it managed to garner around 40 lakh votes in the state. In many constituencies, we got over 1 lakh votes. This is definitely an achievement for us. Also, in a way, we fought a ‘people’s election'. The party workers and the candidates themselves raised money for the cause. Therefore, they had a strong emotional connect with the party, and considered it to be their own. Although we did not win any seat in the Lok Sabha polls, the party workers are not disheartened, as the focus is now on winning seats to the Vidhan Sabha."
Maydeo has helped set up the women's wing of the VBA.
She added, "The VBA's entry into politics is an attempt to make politics decentralised, and to ensure that diverse communities can get a share in power. We fielded candidates belonging to communities which had possibly never been able to field a candidate from amongst their own before. For instance, Vishnu Jadhav, our candidate from Beed, is from the Kaikadi community."
The Kaikadi community is listed among the de-notified tribes in Maharashtra. De-notified tribes are social groups which had been branded as 'criminal tribes' under the British rule, and continue to face extreme stigmatisation and marginalisation.
Speaking about the party's aims for the Maharashtra Assembly election, Maydeo said, "We will aim to win about fifty seats. We can win several seats if the votes of diverse communities can be united in favour of our candidates."
The VBA had fought the Lok Sabha polls in alliance with All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, which won from the Aurangabad seat. In the upcoming Assembly election, the VBA would hope to convert its vote share into seats. Whether it does so in alliance with the Congress-NCP, or fights the poll battle on its own, remains to be seen.
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