Ramdas Athawale
Athawale in 2016
Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment
Assumed office
5 July 2016
Prime MinisterNarendra Modi
MinisterThawar Chand Gehlot (until 7 July 2021)
Virendra Kumar Khatik (Incumbent)
Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
Assumed office
3 April 2014
Preceded byPrakash Javadekar
Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha
In office
10 October 1999 – 16 May 2009
Preceded bySandipan Thorat
Succeeded byConstituency Abolished
In office
Preceded byNarayan Athawale
Succeeded byManohar Joshi
ConstituencyMumbai North Central
Cabinet Minister for Social Welfare,Transport,Sports and Youth Welfare,Employment Guarantee, Government of Maharashtra
In office
Member, Maharashtra Legislative Council
In office
President of Republican Party of India (A)
Assumed office
25 May 1999
Preceded by"Office Established"
Personal details
Ramdas Bandu Athawale

(1959-12-25) 25 December 1959 (age 64)
Agalgaon, Sangli district, India
Political partyRepublican Party of India (A) (1990–present)
Other political
National Democratic Alliance (2014–present)
Republican Party of India (until 1990)
OccupationTrade unionist, social worker

Ramdas Bandu Athawale (Marathi pronunciation: [aːʈʰʋəle]; born 25 December 1959) is an Indian politician, social activist and trade unionist from Maharashtra. He is the president of the Republican Party of India (A), a splinter group of the Republican Party of India and has its roots in the Scheduled Castes Federation led by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar since 1999. Currently, he is the Minister of State in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India since 2016 and represents Maharashtra in Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India's Parliament since 2014. Previously, he was Lok Sabha MP from Pandharpur from 1999 to 2009 and from Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha constituency from 1998 to 1999. He was also Cabinet minister of Maharashtra from 1990 to 1995 and a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council from 1990 to 1996.

Early life

Athawale was born on 25 December 1959 in Agalgaon, Sangli district, Bombay State, which is now Maharashtra.[1] His parents were Bandu Bapu and Honsabai Bandu Athawale. He attended Siddharth College of Law, Mumbai and married to Seema Athawale, on 16 May 1992. He has a son.[2] Ramdas Athawale is a practitioner of Buddhism.[3]

Athawale has been editor of a weekly magazine called Bhumika and is a founder member of Parivartan Sahitya Mahamandal. He has served as president of Parivartan Kala Mahasangha, the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Foundation and the Bauddha Kalawant Academy (Buddhist Artists Academy) and was founder president of Bauddha Dhamma Parishad (Buddhism conference). He played the title role in a Marathi film, Anyayacha Pratikar, and also had a small role in another Marathi film, Joshi ki Kamble, as well as roles in Marathi dramas such as Ekach Pyala.[2]

Political career

The Minister of State for Social Justice & Empowerment, Ramdas Athawale addressing at the presentation of the Essays Competition awards under Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, in New Delhi on October 11, 2017

Athwale was inspired by B. R. Ambedkar, the Indian polymath. Following a split in the Dalit Panther movement in 1974, Athawale joined Arun Kamble and Gangadhar Gade in leading a rump in Maharashtra. His involvement with a faction of the Republican Party of India, despite the Panther's general disdain for its leadership, eventually led to an association with the Indian National Congress (INC).[4]

Athawale was member of Maharashtra Legislative Council from 1990 to 1996[2] and was Cabinet Minister for Social Welfare and Transport, Employment Guarantee Scheme and Prohibition Propaganda in the Government of Maharashtra between 1990 and 1995.[2]

He represented the Pandharpur constituency of Maharashtra and is the president of the Republican Party of India (Athawale) (RPIA).[citation needed]

Athawale represented Mumbai North Central in the 12th Lok Sabha during 1998-99 and was elected to serve a second term in the 13th Lok Sabha of 1999–2004. A third term, in the 14th Lok Sabha, followed from 2004 to 2009.[2] Considered something of a lightweight in state politics, he has been courted at various times by various parties because of a perception that he might assist in mobilising the scattered Maharashtrian Dalit vote in their favour.[5] He left the Nationalist Congress Party-INC alliance in 2011[citation needed] after having lost in the 2009 Lok Sabha election,[2] when he contested the reserved Shirdi constituency.[6] This defeat was despite a subsequent report by Social Watch which ranked him as the second-best performing member of the 14th Lok Sabha, based on an analysis of various data points.[7] Athawale led the RPI party, joined the alliance of Shivsena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2011 and contested Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections together.[citation needed]

In 2014, Athawale was elected to the Rajya Sabha, which is the upper house of parliament.[2] He became Minister of State in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on 6 July 2016, working under Thawar Chand Gehlot.[8]

His RPI(A) organisation is a part of the National Democratic Alliance led by the BJP.[9]

Devyani Khobragade was proposed for the role of Personal Secretary to Athawale in July 2016 but the appointment was refused by Gehlot, who saw a conflict of interest because her father, Uttam Khobragade, was the national executive president of the RPI(A).[10]

When Athawale established a children's wing of the RPI(A) in September 2017, he appointed his son, then aged 12, to be its leader.[5]

In May 2019, Athawale continued his position as Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment.[11]

In March 2020, a video of Athawale chanting 'Go Corona!' at a rally went viral and became a popular meme.[12]

Social activism

Ramdas Athawale with Narendra Modi, Nitin Gadkari and Devendra Fadnavis paying tribute to B. R. Ambedkar.

In 2015, following attacks on Dalits in the state of Haryana, Athawale said that if the police were to continue turning a blind eye to their plight then special protection squads led by senior police officers should be formed from among members of the community and they should be granted firearms licenses so that they could protect themselves.[13][14] In December 2017, he suggested that Dalits should renounce Hinduism in favour of Buddhism in order to stop being subject to "atrocities". He also criticised the record of the Hindu-centric BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in dealing with issues relating to discrimination of not only Dalits but also other disadvantaged communities in India.[15] In March 2018, echoing remarks he had made soon after becoming Minister of State in 2016[16] and reacting in particular to recent atrocities against Dalits in Saharanpur, Unnao and Allahabad, Athawale advocated inter-caste marriage as the best way to minimise such events and noted that he had married a Brahmin "to set an example". As he had done in December 2017, he attacked Mayawati, a Dalit former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, on this occasion for what he perceived as a lack of action to help Dalits during her four terms in office. He said that this had caused the community to shift their support to the BJP and RPI, while refuting charges that he was a puppet under BJP control.[17]

Although described as a Dalit leader, Athawale has caused controversy among Dalits. In January 2018, around 130 people were arrested when some Dalit activists protested against him during a speech.[18]

Aside from his involvement in Dalit affairs, Athawale has also advocated reservation for economically disadvantaged upper caste communities. He has said that the government of India should release the caste-based information collected during the 2011 Census of India, which is considered to be a politically sensitive dataset, in order to address inequities in the reservation system across the board. He rejects claims that doing so would lead to an increase in casteism.[19]

Athawale has said that reservation quota of 25 percent for Dalits should be introduced to sports, including cricket, following India's defeat in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy Final against Pakistan,[20] and that the armed forces should also be subject to a quota regime. He has also said that, just as the Lok Sabha has constituencies reserved for members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, so too should the Rajya Sabha and the Union cabinet. In addition, he favours increasing the prevailing 50 per cent quota that exists for government jobs and places at educational institutions to 75 per cent, stressing that this would apply to all castes that are recognised as economically disadvantaged, which includes those categorised at Other Backwards Classes.[21]

Positions held


  1. ^ Correspondent, dna (15 April 2019). "Ramdas Athawale extends a hand of alliance to Prakash Ambedkar". DNA India. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Shri Ramdas Athawale: Minister of State for Social Justice & Empowerment". Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Dalits should embrace Buddhism, says Ramdas Bandu Athawale". The Indian Express. 30 July 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  4. ^ Waghmore, Suryakant (2013). Civility against Caste: Dalit Politics and Citizenship in Western India. SAGE Publishing India. p. 63. ISBN 978-8-13211-813-8.
  5. ^ a b "Mumbai: Ramdas Athawale forms children's wing to launch 12-year-old son in politics". Mid-day. PTI. 6 September 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  6. ^ Waghmore, Suryakant (2013). Civility against Caste: Dalit Politics and Citizenship in Western India. SAGE Publishing India. p. 196. ISBN 978-8-13211-813-8.
  7. ^ Social Watch (2011). Citizens' Report on Governance and Development 2010. SAGE Publications. p. 11. ISBN 978-8-13210-627-2.
  8. ^ "Shri Ramdas Athawale Assumes Charge as MoS Social Justice & Empowerment". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 6 July 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Union minister Ramdas Athawale's mother passes away". The Tribune. 16 November 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Ramdas Athawale's Request For Devyani Khobragade As Private Secretary Turned Down". Press Trust of India. NDTV. 25 July 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  11. ^ "PM Modi allocates portfolios. Full list of new ministers", Live Mint, 31 May 2019
  12. ^ Mar 2020, Mirror Now | 10; Ist, 08:17 Pm (10 March 2020). "Video of Ramdas Athawale chanting 'go corona, go corona' goes viral". The Economic Times. Retrieved 29 September 2020.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ "Athawale demands arms for Dalits". The Times of India. 24 October 2015. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  14. ^ "Let Dalits possess arms for their safety: Athawale tells Maha govt". Rediff. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  15. ^ "Union Minister Ramdas Athawale Asks Dalits To Renounce Hinduism, Embrace Buddhism". Outlook. 14 December 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  16. ^ "Promote inter-caste marriages to end casteism: Ramdas Athawale". Economic Times. PTI. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  17. ^ "Yogi government should ensure that Dalits too live a respectful life : Ramdas Athawale". The Daily Pioneer. 1 March 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  18. ^ "Union minister Ramdas Athawale heckled during speech by protesters". Financial Express. PTI. 15 January 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  19. ^ "Make caste census public, says Union Minister Ramdas Athawale". 4 April 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  20. ^ "Union Minister Ramdas Athawale accuses Kohli, others of 'fixing' ICC final against Pakistan". The News Minute. IANS. 1 July 2017.
  21. ^ "Ramdas Athawale bats for SC, ST quota in Cabinet, Rajya Sabha". One India. PTI. 7 September 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2018.