The Congress and BJP have been locked in a tussle over appropriating Ambedkar’s legacy, both attributing political motives to each other
File pic of people on their way to Chaityabhumi Dadar in Mumbai to attend Dr Balasaheb Ambedkar Jayanthi that falls on December 6
BJP president Amit Shah had sounded the poll bugle for the Bihar elections on dalit icon BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary from Patna. Over a month later, the union cabinet announced its plans to observe his 125th anniversary, for which a committee has been set up under chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The panel comprising union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, M Venkaiah Naidu, Smriti Irani, Sadanand Gowda, Ram Vilas Paswan and Suresh Prabhu, will suggest different programmes to be undertaken by various ministries and states to celebrate Ambdekar’s anniversary and propagate his ideas.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The Congress and BJP have been locked in a tussle over appropriating Ambedkar’s legacy, both attributing political motives to each other. The government refuted that the celebrations had any political objective. Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the media after the Cabinet meeting that 16 major activities were being undertaken by the ministry of social justice and empowerment to promote Ambedkar’s ideology and philosophy, including setting up of a Rs 197 crore Ambedkar International Centre at 15 Janpath. A tableau of Ambedkar will also be presented on Republic day next year. The government plans to celebrate April 14, 2016, as “National Nandhutva Bhav Samrasata Diwas (National Amity and Brotherhood Day) and set up a Ambedkar memorial costing Rs 99 crore in the Capital. It will also develop at least two prominent places associated with him like Nagpur, Vadodara and Mhow, and sponsor 100 students for study tour to University of Columbia and London School of Economics where Ambedkar had studied. Last month, RSS mouthpieces had come out with special editions on Ambedkar. As part of its strategy for Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, two politically crucial states, the BJP is trying to reach out to dalits. In Bihar, which is headed for elections later this year, the BJP is in talks with former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi with an eye on the mahadalit vote. With dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan already part of the NDA, the BJP is hoping to reach out to the dalits, who comprise 16 per cent of the vote in Bihar. In UP, where elections will be held in 2017, the BJP is hoping to wean away the dalit vote from Mayawati’s BSP. Encouraged by the Lok Sabha results, the BJP, which was seen as an upper caste party, is trying to win over the dalits. Meanwhile, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will launch his party’s celebrations of Ambedkar’s anniversary from his birthplace in Mhow next week.