Pune: Accusing the Devendra Fadnavis-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of apathy towards the problems of the Dhangar (shepherd) community, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh chief Prakash Ambedkar said on Tuesday that the community had been treated like a football by national parties. “The position of the Dhangar community has not improved since Independence. Both the BJP as well as the Congress have played with the community like a football, pushing their problems in different parts of the political field,” Mr. Ambedkar said in Kolhapur.Since the community had been denied justice, the BBM chief said that the Dhangars had decided to resolve their own issues rather than begging political crumbs from bigger parties.For this, a state-wide rally of the Dhangar community is to be held on May 20 in the temple town of Pandharpur in Solapur district, 215 km from Pune city.The rally, a show of strength by the community members in a prelude to the 2019 general and Assembly elections, aims to establish a government imbued with the ideals of the ‘Shahu-Phule-Ambedkar’ movement.Last month, the BBM chief had openly advocated reservation for the Dhangar community.Mr. Ambedkar’s move of reaching out to the community is seen as a bid to rally together backward communities under the BBM umbrella before the next year’s elections. In a further censure of the BJP government, the BBM president alleged that the hullabaloo over the renaming of Solapur University was “a deliberate move on part of Fadnavis government to aggravate social tensions.”“The State Education Minister Vinod Tawde is further stoking this controversy [over renaming of Solapur varsity]. They [the Maharashtra govt.] must tender an apology to the Dhangar community for playing politics over Ahilyabai Holkar, a great and saintly historical figure,” he said.Last year, Chief Minister Fadnavis had sought the renaming of Solapur University after Punyashlok Ahilyabai Holkar, the 18th Century Maratha queen who ruled Malwa and is revered by members of the Dhangar community.Before the 2014 Assembly elections, the BJP had lured some leaders of the community with promises of reservation.Later it inducted Mahadev Jankar, a prominent Dhangar leader and chief of the Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) and minor BJP ally, into the State cabinet.It had also commissioned the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) for a study on the backwardness of the community.Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) too had jumped into the fray to win the hearts and minds of the community by expressing support for Dhangar reservation.