NEW DELHI: As Rajya Sabha discussed ‘Commitment to Constitution’, BSP chief Mayawati made a curious speech that touched every aspect of what this winter session was about — concern about mob violence, reservation policy and GST.
Tongue firmly in cheek, she declared her party would support the Goods and Services Tax Bill “if that’s what helps the economy, development of the nation and the welfare of all sections.” The government, she added, need not offer her tea or a glass of water as inducement for that, in an obvious reference to the PM’s meeting with Congress leaders on the issue.
Once the GST support without pre-condition was offered, she went on to attack the government or rather the PM’s silence on his ministerial colleagues’ acting as loose canons making “life quite intolerable for Dalits, OBCs, minorities, particularly Muslims.” She singled out MoS VK Singh for his infamous barb on the burning of two Dalit toddlers in Haryana, saying his place was in “prison not in Parliament.” The stringent SC/ST Atrocities Act being her reference point.
Mayawati, however, was playing the UP assembly election tune of sarva dharma sambhav, asking the PM for a quota commitment for economically backward upper castes and Dalit Muslims and Christians, over and above the SC/ST reservation. “But… if you try to do anything to the constitutional provision of reservation to SCs and STs, I’ll take to the streets,” she warned.
The Congress, nonetheless, was upset with Mayawati, partly because her inclusive agenda threatened to queer its pitch in UP, scheduled for elections in 2017, and partly because she accused the Congress of having come in the way of Babasaheb Ambdekar’s political, electoral ambitions. Reiterating what the Shiv Sena had said in the Lok Sabha, Mayawati pointed out how Ambedkar had to scout for a seat to get himself into the Constituent Assembly from Bengal in 1946 and how the Congress had him defeated in the first general elections in 1952.
Fielding its own Dalit face from UP, PL Punia, an erstwhile Mayawati associate, the Congress accused the BSP leader of distorting history. Punia said then Congress chief Rajendra Prasad had written to then CM of Bombay Province BG Kher to get Ambedkar re-elected to the Constituent Assembly, once he lost his Jessor-Naukhali seat after Partition. “It was through Congress that he again found a place in the Constituent Assembly,” Punia said, adding that Ambedkar was chosen over GV Mavalankar, the first Speaker, when sitting member MR Jayakar of Bombay resigned.
On the ’52 election, Punia said Congress won 35 of 37 seats in Bombay Province, all others except an Independent and one more, lost. “This included Babasaheb, who contested on his own party ticket,” he said, explaining. “This history of Congress backing Ambedkar is being distorted,” he said.