India: In his effort to cash in on the brewing unrest among large sections of Dalits in Maharashtra over RPI, chief Ramdas Athavale's recent decision to team up with the "communal" Shiv Sena-BJP alliance, the rival People's Republican Party president Jogendra Kawade is re-mobilising the Dalit cadres in the state.

As part of the exercise, he has called a convention of like-minded Dalits at Nagpur on July 16.

A former MP from Chimur in east Maharashtra, Kawade is extremely upset with Athavale for the latter's "opportunistic" move to align with the Sena-BJP alliance in the run-up to the municipal corporation elections in the state.

"Athavale has betrayed the interests of Dalits in the state. With his decision to team with the communal political formation like the saffron alliance, Athavale has ceased to be an Ambedkarite. If anything, he is power monger," Kawade said here on Monday.

Kawade may not be as influential leader as Athvale, but he is definitely a force to reckon with in Dalit politics of Maharashtra, where nearly 16 per cent of 11.23 crore population are Dalits.

In fact, he is one of the four leaders - the other three being Athavale, Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh leader and late B R Ambedkar's grandson Prakash Ambedkar and R S Gavai of the Republican Party of India, who is currently the Governor of Kerala -- who have been steering the Dalit movement in a state, which produced the architect of Indian Constitution late B R Ambedkar.

"Time has come to re-moblise Dalits, Muslims and other backward classes in the state. At the convention called by my party at Nagpur on July 16, I would like to give a new direction to the Dalit movement in Maharashtra. There is already considerable disgruntlement among sizeable sections of Dalit supporters of Athavale over his decision to join hands with the Sena-BJP alliance. No wonder that many of them are turning to my party," Kawade said.

According to Kawade, over 1,500 hard-core supporters of Athavale would join the People's Republican Party (PRP) at the Nagpur convention. Dalits from all 35 districts of Maharashtra and neighbouring states like Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are attending the convention.