Newly-appointed Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale today came down heavily on Congress, saying the party used him with an eye on Dalit votes but it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who realised his worth and made him a central minister.
Stating that he will campaign for BJP in Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls early next year, the minister added that he is in touch with BSP "dissidents" and senior leaders, some of whom had recently quit the party.
"Congress was benefited by Republican Party of India (A) in Maharashtra and in several other states. In fact, Sonia Gandhi would admit that Congress could clinch power with the support of RPI. Had we not supported Congress in 1990, Shiv Sena and BJP would have come to power in early 1990s.
"Congress never valued me and never understood my power. It gave assurances on several occasions to induct me in the government but never did so. Narendra Modi realised my value and my power," Athawale said as he took charge of his post.
He also charged the Congress president with sharing stage with him to woo Dalits before elections in Maharashtra but denying him his dues after victory.
Asked if he would campaign for BJP in UP, the Dalit leader said he would definitely try to "snatch the elephant" from the Mayawati-led BSP.
"Elephant was the symbol of Republican Party of India, but was later given to Mayawati's party. She is not doing any substantial work for the Dalits, so we will try to snatch the elephant from BSP," he said.
He claimed that BSP's core vote bank of Dalits in UP is shrinking which was evident from the results of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and said his party intends to contest on 20-25 seats in the state and is in touch with BSP dissidents and senior leaders some of whom had recently quit the party.
Athawale further said he is the first leader who believes in the ideology of RPI to have become Union Minister after Dr BR Ambedkar, who was a Minister in the first Cabinet headed by prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It was Ambedkar who had mooted the idea of RPI before he passed away in 1956, he added.
Athawale, who is yet to be allotted a ministerial office, said he will assist Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawarchand Gehlot in carrying out the welfare activities to fulfil Ambedkar's vision.
He said Dalit welfare is the priority of the government and he will work to ensure that funds under SC sub plan is utilised in a timely manner.