NEW DELHI: Newly appointed chairman of prestigious cultural body IGNCA Ram Bahadur Rai created a controversy as he questioned dalit icon BR Ambedkar’s contribution in drafting of the constitution. Rai, who has RSS background and is former journalist, was immediately panned by the BJP leaders, as they did not want another controversy ahead of Uttar Pradesh elections.
The sharpest comment came from BJP’s SC cell chief Dushyant Kumar Gautam who questioned Rai’s credentials and claimed he would raise the matter within the party forum.
Gautam said comments like these "insulted" Ambedkar and were a "hurdle" in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's agenda of creating social harmony.
"Those who are saying so are doing it without any thinking and it seems they have some malice and enmity against the Scheduled Castes and the concept of social justice. This is the reason otherwise such statements would not have been made. If Ambedkar was from upper castes, then they would not made such comments," Gautam said.
Asked about Rai's links with the RSS, he shot back saying if somebody's mindset is "polluted", then it is polluted.
There is a reason for BJP hitting out at anyone criticising Ambedkar. The ruling party had adopted the icon claiming that it was promoting inclusiveness. Even the NDA government had taken major initiatives to hardsell his image with an eye on Uttar Pradesh elections, where dalits play a decisive role.
Earlier, a similar comment by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat questioning reservation had derailed BJP’s election campaign in Bihar.
Rai, who was former ABVP general secretary and even active during the Emergency, was appointed as the chairman of Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, in April last. After Rai’s appointment, the IGNCA which had come to be associated with the Congress’ cultural outreach, has started playing host to RSS functions.
However, Rai in an interview, said it was a myth that Ambedkar’s drafted constitution, as his role was limited correcting the material given to him by an IAS officer.
sked for his comments, BJP Vice President Vinay Sahasrabuddhe said Ambedkar continues to be "supremely important icon of the emancipation of downtrodden sections of society, especially Dalits. Whatever way people may assess him, he remains our national hero."
"He (Ambedkar) has a prime place in our social and national ethos. No other person has that kind of supremacy, he added.
Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma declined to comment over Rai's comments saying he was unaware of the content of his interview.
Asked if he would seek action against Rai, who was appointed IGNCA head recently, Gautam said he would do so after reading the complete interview.
Sahasrabuddhe also claimed he had not read the interview. To a question referring to Rai's RSS background, the BJP Vice-President said the Hindutva organisation's views on Ambedkar was articulated best by its former head Balasaheb Deoras, who had heaped praise on him.