Mumbai: Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray Monday made an embarrassing revelation here that he had personally intervened to secure a Rajya Sabha seat for Dalit leader Ramdas Athawale.
The revelation came in the wake of Republican Party of India (Athawale) decision to ally with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which snapped alliance with the Shiv Sena last Thursday.
"I personally went to meet (then Gujarat chief minister) Narendra Modi and (then BJP president) Rajnath Singh on this issue...I clearly said if they wanted to see Modi as the next prime minister, it was imperative to get Dalit support in Maharashtra," Uddhav Thackeray said while pitching for a Rajya Sabha seat for Athawale last year.
In the party mouthpiece 'Saamana', Thackeray claimed that the BJP leaders barely concealed their displeasure and even changed their paths whenever Athawale came in front of them, especially when he implored them for a cabinet berth after the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
"We gave him a Rajya Sabha seat...That's enough...As it is, he is the Shiv Sena' burden...Why should we carry it?...No BJP leader ever felt it is important to honour Dalits by making Athawale a minister," Uddhav said, adding this was the BJP's refrain on Athawale.
He said the BJP was reluctant to give a Rajya Sabha seat to accommodate Athawale last year when the BJP grand alliance flourished in Maharashtra.
Thackeray alleged that BJP president Amit Shah reportedly lured Athawale with a central cabinet berth and other goodies, but reportedly asked him (Athawale) to keep his party (RPI-A) in the dark about it.
The Shiv Sena chief pointed out that it was the late party patriarch Bal Thackeray's cherished vision to unite the two powerful forces in state politics - 'Shiv Shakti and Bhim Shakti' - (Shiv Sena and Dalits).
"Bal Thackeray used to say that Maharashtra has only two Gods - Chhatrapati Shivaji and BR Ambedkar...Our religions may be different but our blood is common...We must unitedly capture power in the state...But, now the BJP has thrown some bones before Athawale and he has fallen for it," Uddhav said.
Admitting he had nothing "in hand" to readily offer, Uddhav reiterated the Shiv Sena's commitment to make Athawale the deputy chief minister if the party is swept to power in the Oct 15 state assembly polls.
"Come, let's work together...This state belongs not only to Chhatrapati Shivaji, but also to Balasaheb (Thackeray) and Babasaheb (Ambedkar)...Let's take it forward unitedly," Uddhav urged.