In order to make up for the loss of some of the key Dalit outfits, both Congress and NCP are trying to bring even the tit-bits of the republican parties along with them ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Dalits make up 16 percent of the total populations in Maharashtra and after Independence the community split into Hindu Dalits and Navbuddhs.  Later, Navbuddhs also got divided into several sub-groups and joined hands with national parties like Congress.

Dalit icon Bhimrao Ambedkar contested the first Lok Sabha elections in 1952 under the banner of Scheduled Castes Federation and after his demise; his followers floated the Republican Party of India (RPI).

Today,  RPI is divided into splinters led by leaders like Ramdas Athwale, Prakash Ambedkar, Rajendra Gawai and Joginder Kawade. Besides, those Dalits who refused to embrace Buddhism also comprise eight percent in the state’s overall populations. And well-known leaders form this section like Sushilkumar Shinde and Mukul Wasnik never tried to project themselves as Dalits.

In 1996, eleven groups of Republican Party contested the Lok Sabha polls and though it could not win even one seat, it limited Congress’ victory to 15 seats.

Taking a note of this very fact, Congress entered into an alliance with RPI in the next Lok Sabha elections in 1998 and gave them four seats. The outcome of this alliance was satisfactorily and the Congress-Republican combine went on to win 38 out of 48 seats in Maharashtra. On the other hand, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance was left contented with just 10 seats.

After Independence, it was for the first time in 1998, four Republican leaders were elected to the Parliament. But in 1999, when Sharad Pawar decided to walk out of Congress, the Republican leaders never stayed with it anymore.

Though Congress extended support to RPI leader Ramdas Athwale in 2009, he conceded defeat and in spite of repeated appeals to NCP and Congress to arrange his passage to the Rajya Sabha, nothing happened. This in turn compelled Athwale to join hands with Shiv Sena.

Taking all these developments into account, as of now, there seems to be no Republican forces standing along with Congress, which may compound problem for Sonia Gandhi-led party in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.


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