Competitive politics over BR Ambedkar led to a sharp exchange between the BJP and the Congress on Tuesday.
If Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Ambedkar’s birthplace in Mhow on Tuesday afternoon reflected the grand old party’s renewed bid to capture the Dalit icon’s legacy, the BJP made sure it was not an easy task to accomplish.
At Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, Rahul paid his respects at the Ambedkar memorial.
Afterwards, the Nehru scion, citing the ban on the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle in IIT-Madras, said certain sections of the society still want to take away the rights of Dalits.
Ambedkar wanted to end discrimination against oppressed classes and he drafted a Constitution that gives equal rights to all Indians, he said, adding that the measures of erstwhile Congress governments — such as land redistribution, bank nationalisation and MGNREGA — were in the direction of annihilation of caste as dreamed by Ambedkar.
“We did not limit the rights for education and food to any caste groups or religions,” he said, further claiming that the Congress stands with Dalits, adivasis, women and the oppressed.
Two Union Ministers, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Piyush Goyal, questioned the Congress’s track record in promoting leaders outside the Nehru-Gandhi family.
“I want to ask Rahul Gandhi a question — why was Ambedkar not given Bharat Ratna throughout Congress rule?
“And why only Ambedkar…the Congress has neglected all leaders other than those belonging to the dynasty.
“They did not honour Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad or Ambedkar,” said Prasad. Ambedkar was posthumously awarded India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, in 1990.
Goyal said the Congress did not think it important to honour Ambedkar all these years.
“The BJP does not divide the society. We believe in sabka saath, sabka vikas . We never discriminate amongst the different classes in society. We do not accept such comments from those who believe in discrimination, those who do vote bank politics. We don’t want the society to be divided,” he said.
Few remaining He added that people have rejected the Congress in such a manner that there are very few representatives remaining.
“But today, the maximum representatives of different societies are from the BJP. The maximum representatives from BR Ambedkar’s society are from the BJP. I am very proud of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to improve the society and the lives of people at the bottom of the pyramid,” he said, adding that there is no space for divisive comments.