Rahul Gandhi to take battle over Ambedkar legacy to Mhow in MP
As the battle between the Congress and the BJP over B Ambedkar’s legacy shifts to Madhya Pradesh, the bigger question among Congress workers has surfaced again.
Bhopal: As the battle between the Congress and the BJP over B Ambedkar’s legacy shifts to Madhya Pradesh, the bigger question among Congress workers has surfaced again. Can a ‘recharged’ Rahul Gandhi, who is visiting the state on Tuesday, help the Congress bounce back? The party has been wallowing in self-pity after losing every election in the state held since November 2013. Rahul, who steered the party’s campaign through the disastrous spell, rarely visited it after the Lok Sabha debacle. Both the leader and the party now need the other for resurgence.
The party unit has multiple tasks on hand: to counter the BJP’s propaganda on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first anniversary in power; resurrect itself by effectively using Rahul’s visit and sustain their leader’s new-found momentum. A host of leaders have been assigned to visit the state.
Now with the party planning to ‘elect’ the 44-year-old vice-president as its next head the visit would also help him canvass for the elections. Some senior leaders do chuckle at the idea of holding elections to promote him though.
Soaring temperatures in the region have added to the party workers’ woes in mobilising public support for the leader when he visits Mhow, the birthplace of Dr BR Ambedkar. AICC general secretary and former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Digvijaya Singh is anchoring the preparations for Gandhi’s visit.
Both the Congress and the BJP are involved in a battle of attrition to appropriate the Ambedkar legacy. Mhow didn’t shape Ambedkar’s political career or ideological personality. He chose the Dalit- dominated Vidarbha as his work area. It was the Congress that underlined the significance of Mhow during his centenary year 25 years ago. The Congress has now launched a year-long programme for the 125th anniversary of Ambedkar which will conclude in Nagpur next year. General secretary, Mohan Prakash and the convenor of the Scheduled Castes cell K Raju are frequenting Mhow where the party hopes to fetch a crowd of over one lakh.
The Congress needs to fight for its share in the Dalit vote bank at diverse levels. It is aware of the hardships in reclaiming the Ambedkar legacy as historical documents have ample evidence of differences between the Dalit icon and contemporaries like Nehru, Patel and even Mahatma Gandhi. But the party hopes to draw enough mileage from the fact that Nehru assigned Ambedkar an important role in his ministry. Some other documents where the two concurred on some issues pertaining to Dalits are being fished out of the archives.
The BJP has already queered the pitch with the state unit president Nandkumar Singh Chouhan saying, “Rahul Gandhi is visiting Mhow while his family had made a mockery of his contribution.” Chauhan claimed that Nehru prevented Ambedkar from winning the Lok Sabha elections twice.
“The BJP has a bigger challenge in establishing proximity to Babasaheb,”says Digvijaya Singh. He accused the RSS of indulging in doublespeak over Ambedkar. The Sangh Parivar’s views are against the interest of Dalits and Tribals, says Singh.
Incidentally, Madhya Pradesh ranks fourth in the country on crime against the Scheduled Castes and second on crime against Scheduled Tribes. In the recent past there have been many instances of atrocities on Dalits in the state. A Dalit youth was attacked by upper caste members in Shivpuri district for riding horse during his wedding procession. Another youth was set on fire last week for collecting water from a public hand pump in Sagar district.
In view of the organisational elections due later this year the state unit is expecting a makeover. Political observers are awaiting expectantly the composition of the new team as the new party chief might like to infuse younger blood. There is speculation that Digvijaya Singh might be asked to head the party’s state unit, a position he held in the mid-1980s. Singh denies any such offer so far. But with three leaders -- Suresh Pachauri, Kantilal Bhuria and Arun Yadav -- having failed to deliver in over a decade the party’s choice might fall on Singh again. This could mean a younger Jyotiraditya Scindia, former Union minister and one of the two leaders who were returned to the Lok Sabha against the Modi wave last year getting a bigger responsibility in the organisation. While Singh joined Rahul Gandhi in a farmers’ rally in Delhi last month, Scindia accompanied him to Punjab.
The rank and file of the party in the state hasn’t responded warmly to Scindia’s leadership either. By and large the workers are keen on a total revamp of the state unit. Rahul was unable to take a call on the issue last year. Madhya Pradesh would show how decisive he has become.
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