Nagpur: Former minister in the Congress government during 1999-2004 and dalit leader from Vidarbha region, Sulekha Kumbhare on Sunday announced "unconditional" support of her organisation to BJP for the October 15 Assembly elections.
With Kumbhare, who had campaigned for Congress in recent Lok Sabha polls, on board and the Republican Party of India (RPI)-led by Ramdas Athawale already in the 'Mahayuti' fold, BJP is now hoping to consolidate Dalit votes in its stronghold of Vidarbha.
"Kumbhare's organisation, Bahujan Republican Ekta Manch (BREM) will extend unconditional support to BJP candidates in Nagpur district in particular and Vidarbha in general," announced Union Minister for Road Transport and Shipping Nitin Gadkari at a press conference here.
Addressing reporters, Kumbhare said she was "wholeheartedly" supporting the BJP and accused Congress of not keeping its poll promise made to her. She said that Congress had offered BREM only two seats out of 10 seats it had demanded.
Congress has already fielded candidates on Kamptee and Umrer seats--two of the ten seats demanded by BREM--in Nagpur district.
Kumbhare hailed Gadkari on the occasion for his "vision". "BJP is committed to create separate Vidarbha and I am a staunch advocate for the cause," she said.
State unit BJP President Devendra Fadnavis, also present on the occasion, said that BJP is contesting 257 seats and has conceded 31 seats to smaller allies: Swabhimani Paksh of Raju Shetty (14), RPI (8), Rashtriya Samaj Party of Mahadeo Jankar (5) and Shiv Sangram Party of Vinayak Mete (4).
BJP recently snapped ties with Shiv Sena, its alliance partner of 25 years, over disagreement on allocation of seats.
The truncated 'Mahayuti' sans Sena comprises BJP, RPI, RSP and SSP.
Responding to a query, Fadnavis said that BJP has assured 10 per cent share in power, if the party gets the decisive mandate, to RPI which has consented it.
He ruled out any further discussions with any party saying there is no scope for it now.
"Our fight is against Congress-NCP misrule and we will dislodge them from power," Fadnavis said.
Former MP Datta Meghe and all sitting BJP MLAs and party candidate for upcoming elections were present on the occasion.