Mumbai: The Shiv Sena (UBT) and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi of Prakash Ambedkar announced an alliance on Monday ahead of mayoral elections in several towns in Maharashtra, the move coinciding with the birthday of the late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.

Addressing a joint press conference, Uddhav Thackeray said his grandfather Keshav Thackeray, also known as Prabodhankar Thackeray, and the grandfather of Prakash Ambedkar, legendary social icon and jurist BR Ambedkar, were contemporaries who admired each other and worked to eradicate social ills and bad practices.

“Now there are bad practices in politics and to eradicate them, the heirs of these two leaders and the people around them have come together to protect the interests of the country. We come together to ensure that democracy is alive “, said Thackeray.

Without naming the Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules Maharashtra as well as the Centre, Thackeray said the country was heading towards autocracy.

The terms of several municipal corporations including those of Mumbai, Thane, Pune and city councils ended last year but polls could not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thackeray also dared the powers that be to hold Assembly polls in Maharashtra at the earliest. The state is ruled by a faction of the Sena which split in June last year and the Bharatiya Janata party, and the Thackeray group has regularly called it a dispensation from “traitors”.

Speaking about the alliance, Ambedkar said the coming together of the VBA and the Shiv Sena (UBT) was the start of the “politics of change”.

The move is seen as an attempt by Thackeray to shore up Dalit support ahead of municipal elections in the state.

The VBA has a presence in Vidarbha’s pockets, with Ambedkar having represented Akola in the Lok Sabha in 1998 and 1999.

He had formed an alliance with the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen led by Asaduddin Owaisi in 2019 and hurt the prospects of the NCP and Congress on several seats in the Assembly.

The alliance talks between the Shiv Sena (UBT) and the VBA had been ongoing for a few months, with Ambedkar earlier saying that it was up to Thackeray to make the official announcement.

Ambedkar also said the alliance was for the time being between the Shiv Sena (UBT) and the VBA, but he hoped that other Maha Vikas Aghadi (Congress and Nationalist Congress Party) voters would also join.

Thackeray said he saw no opposition from Congress and the NCP to including VBA in the MVA.

Last month, the Republican People’s Party (PRP) led by Jogendra Kawade, which has supporters among Dalits in the state, joined forces with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena.

The BJP, a partner in the Shinde government, is allied with the Indian Republican Party (A) of Ramdas Athawale, who is also the Union Minister.

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