Congress leader Vijay Wadettiwar
Nagpur: Congress leader Vijay Wadettiwar Thursday said his party is ready for talks with Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar for an alliance for the upcoming Maharashtra assembly polls to avoid division of "secular" votes.
He said Ambedkar, who heads the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), should come forward for holding pre-poll alliance talks with the Congress.
Addressing a press conference at Press Club here, Wadettiwar also said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had worked very hard in the recent Lok Sabha elections, but partymen fell short in their efforts.
Asked about Ambedkar's reported statement that his front will leave only 40 assembly seats (of the total 288) for the Congress in case of an alliance, Wadettiwar, "We do not know what is going on his mind."
In the recent general elections, the Congress had secured more than 15 per cent of the votes polled in Maharashtra, he said.
"On the other hand, the VBA got 6.7 per cent votes and yet they are talking about giving 40 seats to the Congress," said the leader of opposition in the state assembly.
Ambedkar's statement indicates he has already taken a stance on pre-poll alliance, Wadettiwar said.
The Dalit leader has floated the VBA, a social coalition of Dalits, Muslims and OBCs, in alliance with Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM.
"There should be no division of secular votes and the country must march ahead on path shown by the Constitution," he said.
"Maharashtra is a progressive state which follows the ideologies of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Shahu Maharaj and Mahatma Jyotiba Phule.
"We want an alliance with VBA and we are ready to take one step towards it, but they should also take a step towards forming an alliance," the Congress leader said.
Wadettiwar said seat-sharing can be finalised once there is an agreement on entering in a tie-up for the polls likely in October.
"The issue of seat allotment can be sorted out when meetings takes place and discussions are carried out," he opined.
Replying to a query on Gandhi's letter where he said he fought personallywith the BJP and the RSS, Wadettiwar said the Wayanad MP had worked very hard during the Lok Sabha polls and tried to reach out to people across the country.
"We Congressmen fell short...we could have worked more hard. We request Rahul Gandhito reconsider his decision (to quit as party chief) in larger interest of the country."
"We are standing behind him and we will work hard and continue our fight with more vigour," he said.
Wadettiwar attacked the BJP-led government in the state, saying it has "failed" on all fronts - be it farmer issues, tacking drought or creating jobs.
He said the Shiv Sena-BJP combine is ruling the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation from the last 30 years and each year the civic body spends Rs 125 crore on cleaning
nullahs in the financial capital.
Yet, every year during the monsoon, Mumbai gets flooded and many people are killed in rain-related incidents, the Congress leader said.
Wadettiwar took a swipe at Jalyukta Shivar, the state government's flagship water conservation scheme, and said the project is riddled with corruption.
In the last five years, the Fadnavis government has failed to increase the irrigation potential in the state, the Congress leader said.
He said, "Not even 1 per cent irrigation potential has increased in Vidarbha. Not even one irrigation tender was issued in the first three-and-a-half years of the BJP
government. Some tenders were issued only six months ago."