CM Fadnavis & Athavale

BJP leaders have expressed worries that the Maharashtra Bandh called by Dalit organizations and some political parties in the state could be part of a political conspiracy by opposition parties to achieve a caste-based polarization in the state similar to what was seen in Gujarat.

An election fought on caste-related factors and divisions is BJP’s biggest nightmare, as was the case in the recent elections in Gujarat.

The BJP, which came up on the plank of fighting for Hindu rights, finds itself hamstrung when it comes to politics based on ‘caste’ groups within the Hindu fold.

In the Gujarat election, the party could avoid a defeat in its long-time bastion only after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made several personal, emotional appeals to his fellow Gujaratis.

According to media reports on the violence in Maharashtra, people who were going to attend the memorial event in Koregaon near Pune were attacked with stones and sticks.

Gopal Shetty, BJP MP from Mumbai North, expressed his worry that the elements who were behind the agitations in Gujarat are now targeting Maharashtra.

His reference was to Dalit leader and MLA Jignesh Mavani, who gave a speech in the state on Monday.

“They have come to Maharashtra to carry out similar activities,” Shetty said.

Poonam Mahajan, who is an MP from Mumbai North-Central, seemed to echo the sentiments.

Mahajan said the state government has announced several inquiries into the violence that took place on Monday.

Mahajan seemed to suspect a political conspiracy against the BJP in the event. “..we have ordered a CID enquiry.. in that you will find the politics behind this,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ramdas Athavale of the Republican Party of India, which gets most of its support from Dalit segments and is part of the ruling alliance at the centre and the state, dismissed such fears.

He said trying to link Jignesh Mavani’s speech on January 1 to the current unrest is far fetched.

“I don’t think Jignesh is responsible. He is always critical of BJP and RSS,” he said. “I don’t think the speech is related (to the violent incidents.)”

Athavale said his party has not called for the bandh, but he supports the protests.

Meanwhile, agitating Dalit leaders have called for the arrest of right-wing activists such as Sambaji Bhide and Milind Ekgote.

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