While the BJP, after selectively appropriating Dr BR Ambedkar like the Congress and the Leftist parties, is masquerading as his apostle, the fact remains that it is just political tokenism that circumvents his core ideas.
Ambedkar was an eclectic, neither a Leftist nor a Rightist and advocated morality in all spheres of life. He had some serious reservation about communists and during the last few years of his life, wanted to write a book on The Buddha and Karl Marx, which he left unfinished. Nevertheless, he had made no bones about his opinion against Communism during his lifetime. He found the use of violence by communists to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, unacceptable. He said so while speaking on The Buddha and Communism at the Fourth Conference of World Fellowship of Buddhists in Kathmandu on 20 November, 1956.
He also said that such a dictatorship deprived people of their political rights and compelled them to live as second grade subjects of the state. He abhorred the idea of reducing human beings as mechanical entities in class struggle, without a religion. He felt that religion was necessary for humans apart from physical well-being and advocated Buddhism — which ordained ethics, non-violence and equality, without a god, a prophet, miracles, blind faith and rituals.
He was a critic of the Congress, which he saw as a political bully with monstrous support of "Shetji" and "Bhatji". Besides, he was at loggerheads with Mahatma Gandhi on various issues. Since it was the only national party bulldozing its policies with overwhelming support, he feared that the Congress would be a threat to democratic values. Addressing a public rally at Shivaji Park in Mumbai on 25 November, 1956, he advocated the need for a strong Opposition party to keep a check on the ruling Congress party. In his last few years, he communicated with like-minded contemporaries to unite for creation of a strong alternative to the Congress.
His idea of a political party for the vast majority of ‘have-nots’, irrespective of caste, language, religion or region, remained a dream. Ten months after his death, his trusted lieutenants formed the Republican Party of India (RPI) but lack of consensus on leadership issue led to amoebic divisions — which still continues, creating political vagabonds hungry for crumbs of power from ruling parties of all hues. The Congress appropriated Ambedkar, minus his views against its policies and leaders.
The BJP — that now has an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha — like the Congress had under leaders like Indira Gandhi, has appropriated him, minus his bitter writing and speeches against Brahminical hegemony, gender inequality and the subjugation of the majority (SCs, STs, OBCs and nomadic tribes) by the minority ‘upper castes’.
The appropriation of Ambedkar by the BJP is minus his stand on Hinduism.
The BJP is also yet to break away from the Congress tradition of thriving on emotive issues (like memorials, statues etc) to Ambedkar as a mascot for Dalit votes, ignoring his core ideas. For instance, Ambedkar wanted to end casteism and had suggested measures in his Annihilation of Caste, which was an undelivered speech, printed as a book. He had been invited for the annual conference of Jaat-Paat-Todak Mandal, Lahore in 1936, for which the written speech was sought in advance. The conference was cancelled because his views were found too radical, as Ambedkar went beyond inter-dining and inter-caste marriages as remedies to end casteism and struck at its root: Divine sanction. He wanted Hindus to disown holy texts that ordained inequality and thereby curbed freedom.
To date, the remedies suggested by Ambedkar are yet to be taken up by reformers and religious leaders. Considering the proximity of BJP leaders to Hindu religious leaders and the rising pitch against caste-based reservation by urban-bred elite castes, a beginning could be made to end casteism once and for all. The Narendra Modi government is interested, and rightly so, in the empowering of women and upliftment of Dalits, and there could be a possibility of a Dalit or a woman becoming a Shankaracharya in the future, breaking the monopoly of Brahmins. Also, since the Modi government and its cohorts cry foul over archaic provisions in the Constitution, which is only 67 years old, they should have no qualms about changing obsolete and discriminatory practices in existence for thousands of years in the name of tradition and religion.
In July 1956, Ambedkar had established a training school for politicians as he wanted elected representatives to be informed, honest, hardworking and selfless. Unfortunately, the school, with Ambedkar as the director and SS Rege as its registrar, was shut down in March 1957, three months after his death. The task remains incomplete. Modern day legislators are, indeed, trained by their political bosses and ideologues, but the performance, behaviour and interests of most of them need no explanation. For tackling agrarian woes, Ambedkar had suggested that agriculture be declared an industry, collective farming be promoted and agricultural land be nationalised.
In his historic speech in the constituent Assembly on 25 November, 1949, he was apprehensive about India achieving ‘social democracy’ after achieving ‘political democracy’ and had warned against the pitfalls of hero-worship. "Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship," he had said. Warning against unconstitutional methods of protests, he had said, "…where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us."
His warnings have gone unheeded ever since Indira had and absolute majority, all the way until now when there is euphoria over Modi as the prime minister.
The BJP governments in Maharashtra and at the Centre that are gearing up for the creation of an Ambedkar memorial in Mumbai can spare a thought for the core ideas of a statesman who is today dismissed as a mere leader of Dalits.
Updated Date: Apr 14, 2017 09:54 AM