Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Alliance member Kamble makes move to DUP

Councillor claims party bullying led to change

By Allan Preston

A former Alliance Party councillor has spoken out about defecting to the DUP after claims she was bullied by her previous party.

Vasundhara Kamble was unveiled as the DUP's latest recruit alongside ex-UUP councillor John Scott at their annual conference on Saturday.

The move comes months after she and another ex-councillor, Geraldine Rice, publicly accused Alliance members of ageism, racism and elitism.

Alliance strenuously denied the accusations at the time, saying both women were bitter about not being selected for posts.

Ms Kamble first moved to Northern Ireland from Mumbai in 1995 before starting out in politics as an Alliance Party volunteer. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, Ms Kamble said she been warmly welcomed by the DUP.

"I support them because as an Indian my family came to Northern Ireland because it was part of the UK and I don't see myself as a person who would accept a united Ireland," she said.

On being welcomed by her new party leader Arlene Foster on Saturday, she commented: "It gave me a good feeling because I want to remain in mainstream politics and despite the Alliance's high flying slogans about being inclusive I never felt included."

Ms Kamble said she hasn't had to change her personal views for the DUP, noting that laws on same-sex marriage were a matter of conscience in the Alliance Party.

In 2011 she was co-opted on to Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council after selection by a committee of ordinary party members.

"Almost all of the elected Alliance representatives were not happy with that decision," she said.

"No one congratulated me or would talk to me. If they were in meetings and I said hello, they would turn their face and walk away from me.

"I told some other colleagues that I was being bullied and that others looked down on me but they treated me like I was a stupid person."

Ms Kamble further alleged: "Two Alliance colleagues in the council actually asked 'Do you understand what is going on here, do you understand what is being said?'."

"They would add 'We're only trying to help you' but I found that condescending and it irritated me for a long time."

An Alliance spokesperson said yesterday the allegations were "unfounded", adding that Councillor Kamble "has repeatedly failed to provide any evidence, rather than giving her an opportunity to explain her about face on issues of equality and LGBT rights, and having supported the SDLP (candidate Pat Catney) in Assembly elections only six months ago."

The spokesperson added: "Such complete inconsistency is surely deserving of some explanation to those who voted for her."

Belfast Telegraph

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