NEW DELHI: Political leaders on Thursday vied with one another to lay claim to Dr B R Ambedkar’s legacy, while accusing one another of letting down the Dalit icon.
If Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked the Congress for undermining Ambedkar’s legacy, BSP supremo Mayawati, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal trained their guns on him, terming his Dalit outreach an eyewash.
The occasion for appropriating Ambedkar’s iconography came on his 125th birth anniversary. Modi deified the Dalit leader saying he was working at the feet of Ambedkar. Modi went to Mhow in Madhya Pradesh, Ambedkar’s birthplace, to kickstart year-long celebrations and launch several schemes.
To strengthen rural economy, he launched a village self-governance campaign, ‘Gram Uday se Bharat Uday Abhiyan’. It’s inspired by Ambedkar, Modi said. The campaign aims at creating awareness about various schemes of the Centre.
Modi also launched the pilot of e-NAM — e-trading platform for the National Agriculture Market — under which, 21 mandis in 8 states have been linked to the National Agriculture Market. By Sept, 2016, two hundred mandis will be included and by March, 2018, five hundred eighty five.
Speaking at a rally in Mhow, he said the Gram Uday to Bharat Uday Abhiyan from 14th to 24th April would focus on development in villages. He asked the Congress to repent for what it had not done in the last 60 years.
While Kejriwal questioned what purpose would be served by Modi travelling to Mhow, Mayawati, who likes to keep the Dalit votebank by her side, cautioned people against falling prey to tokenism. Criticising Modi, she said although he spoke publicly on reservations because of “political compulsion”, it appears to be a “mere eyewash”.
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar launched an attack against the BJP and the RSS, saying they were chanting the name of Ambedkar, but behaving in a manner opposite to the values promoted by him.
Icon’s word of Caution
Babasaheb himself had cautioned against hero-worship during constituent assembly debate in 1949. The debate part of historical records reads: “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.