The battle over the legacy of Dr BR Ambedkar just got more intense. The Congress has decided to counter the aggressive bid of the BJP and its ideological fountainhead Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to usurp the legacy of the Dalit icon through its own brand of aggression. The party will organise a grand celebration of the conclusion of year-long celebrations of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s 125 th birth anniversary at Nagpur—the Sangh’s nerve centre on 11 April.
The Congress will also use the opportunity to pay tribute to another Dalit icon and social reformer Jyotiba Phule for which the party has formed a celebration committee.
“Tributes will be paid to Babasaheb Ambedkar at Deekshabhoomi at Nagpur. The day of 11 April also marks the birth anniversary of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, from whom Dr Ambedkar drew inspiration. Both the Congress President and Vice President will be addressing the rally on that day. The event is to mark the culmination of one year long celebrations the Congress Party has taken up last year across the country under the aegis of AICC and PCCs,” said K Raju, chairman, Scheduled Caste department of AICC.
“Lot of suggestions from across the country have come up. The Congress Party and the leadership of Congress President have decided that all the suggestions that have come from the SC/ST Leaders' Conclaves will be taken up for discussion in a dedicated session during the AICC Session to formulate Congress Party's commitment for Dalits in this country in the years to come,” he said.
The Congress party sees this as an opportunity to take on the BJP, as the latter had “hijacked” Congress stalwarts Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru and BR Ambedkar “claiming them as its own”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched ‘Stand Up India’ scheme meant for SC/ST entrepreneurs on the birth anniversary of another Dalit icon from the Congress Babu Jagjivan Ram on 5 April.
On the occasion Modi had said, “Today is Samta Divas--the birth anniversary of Babu Jagjivan Ram, one of the greatest Dalit leaders of our country. By launching Stand Up India, we want to pay tribute to his struggles and contributions. Till date, no scheme has been launched for the Dalits during any of his birth anniversaries.”
Earlier, the BJP-led NDA government had appropriated these Congress icons by celebrating their anniversaries and achievements, thereby taking them out of the Congress fold and rendering them true national leaders. The government has undertaken a year-long celebration of Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary.
Losing no time, the Congress has now geared up to pose a strong challenge to both to the government and the RSS at Nagpur on issue of Dalits. The suicide of Hyderabad Central University’s Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula has witnessed enough political mud-slinging over the past few months.
“For the last two years, whenever incidents of attacks on Dalits happened or Constitution of India, which was authored by Babasaheb was challenged, it has always been the Congress party and the Congress leadership which were in the forefront to be with the victims and to demand justice for them. In fact, in every issue, it has been the Congress Party which is really raising these issues and this clearly reflects the mindset of the BJP and I would like to make it clear that the very foundations of BJP are anti-thetical to the ideology for which Babasaheb stood for. It shall be our endeavour to expose the government, to expose their anti-Dalit approach and also to do everything to protect the Constitutional values Babasaheb has given to this country,” added Raju, also the convener of Dr BR Ambedkar 125th Birth Anniversary Celebrations Committee.
The Congress party besides celebrating at a large-scale in Nagpur has asked its state units to have similar kind celebrations and reach out to Dalits, especially when Assembly elections are going on in West Bengal, Assam and Kerala.
Meanwhile, the Congress leaders have asked for a clear concerted effort within the party to promote Dalit leaders in all the states by nurturing the leadership, by giving them opportunities and also by giving them adequate power within the party and outside.
“The BJP appropriated our national leaders like Nehru, Patel and Ambedkar, but that doesn’t mean they belonged to their ideology. They were stalwart Congress leaders and had immense contribution in India’s freedom struggle. It’s the Congress party that worked for the Dalits, SC and ST. Now to woo the Dalit vote bank, the BJP has been showcasing itself as a messiah of the Dalits and economically backward section of the society by hijacking Congress icons,” a senior Congress leader told Firstpost.
“By conducting this celebration and rally in Nagpur, we want to give the message of Congress Party's commitment – how Congress Party since Independence has actually strived towards fulfilling Babasaheb's vision towards a society where there will be equality and empowerment to every section of the society. And, simultaneously expose the false claims made by the BJP and the RSS on Dalit issues,” the senior leader added.