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Appropriating Ambedkar Adds to the BJP's New Iconography

The BJP, in the process of changing India’s Congress-dominated iconography and putting its own in place replete with nationalist figures, is including Ambedkar in its pantheon.

Published: 03rd May 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd May 2015 08:51 AM   |  A+A-

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NEW DELHI:The fight for Dalit icon Babasaheb Ambedkar’s legacy is on between the Congress and the BJP, and has reached new heights. While Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s second coming has got a push from the Ambedkar factor, the BJP Government is ready with plans to outsmart the Congress in its Dalit mission. The BJP, in the process of changing India’s Congress-dominated iconography and putting its own in place replete with nationalist figures, is including Ambedkar in its pantheon. The 2014 elections showed the party how the Dalit vote had upset caste calculations in the Hindi heartland. Now, guided by the PMO, various ministries are planning to launch year-long programmes to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of the legendary social reformer. Many ministries, including the Rural Development, Social Justice and Culture, have been told to conceive projects and schemes after Ambedkar. The HRD ministry is planning to establish an Ambedkar chair in every Central University to study and research his ideas. The Finance Ministry is learnt to have agreed to a quantum grant for the establishment of these chairs.

“The Government is of the view that Ambedkar’s thoughts and ideas on various subjects like Education, Human Rights and Religion are not well publicised. These Centres in universities will be addressing this issue,” said an official.

Some other ministries like the Information and Broadcasting ministries have been told to ensure maximum outreach for the Government’s celebration of the 125th birth anniversary. “We’ve  been told that every Indian citizen should come to know how the Government is celebrating Ambedkar centenary,” said an I&B Ministry official.

Meanwhile, the PMO has also directed Ministry of Culture to organise ‘International Buddha Poornima Diwas Celebration 2015’ on May 4 in New Delhi. PM Narendra Modi is expected to attend the function.

The PMO had earlier directed the MEA to extend all possible help to the Maharashtra Government to purchase the house in London where Dr B R Ambedkar lived during his student days. The deal which costs around four million pounds was cleared by the government earlier this year.

The PMO has also given directions to the I&B ministry to mandatorily broadcast a biopic on Ambedkar directed by Jabbar Patel on various national occasions such as Republic Day, Independence Day, Dr Ambedkar’s birthday.

The movie, produced in 1999 as a co-production of Ministry of Social Justice and government of Maharashtra, is available in eight different languages including English, Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Bengali, and Odia.

“For all these years, the film has not seen the light. Now it will be shown on most national days of importance,” said the official.

According to a government source, most ministries were planning routine mode of Ambedkar day celebrations till recently. “But things have changed in the last one month,” said the official who acknowledged that the sudden spurt in the activities may have got to do with the Congress scion Rahul Gandhi’s return.

On the other hand, Congress VP Rahul Gandhi is going ahead with his plan to visit Mhow, the birth place of BR Ambedkar, and interact with Dalits on May 29 during his one-day visit to Madhya Pradesh. Mhow would be the first dalit rally of Rahul’s decade-long political career which, coming after the farmers show in capital on April 19, would broaden the heir apparent’s political agenda.

This proposed visit is expected to add on to the year-long programme being chalked out by the Congress to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar.

The tussle for the Ambedkar pie is understandable as both parties have their eyes fixed on the Dalit vote share which had been loyal to the Congress till recently.

       >>BJP Bid to Make Ambedkar Hindutva Icon: Roy  

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