On the 121st birth anniversary of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar on April 14, parties across the nation resorted to crass political pandering that smacked of rank opportunism with an eye on the dalit vote bank. Predictably, in Uttar Pradesh Mayawati – the ousted leader and the current self-proclaimed messiah of dalits – criticised the Akhilesh Yadav government for its failure to organise a memorial programme to pay tribute to Ambedkar. In Andhra Pradesh, with an eye on consolidating the dalit vote bank of Telangana, Telangana Rashtra Samithi supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter K Kavita went on a dharna demanding a statue of Ambedkar to be erected in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly premises.
As one of India’s most controversial leaders, Babasaheb, as he is known, was at loggerheads with Mahatma Gandhi throughout his life. He shared a stage with Muhammad Ali Jinnah to celebrate the “Day of Deliverance” on December 22, 1939, when Congress party representatives resigned en masse to protest not being consulted on the decision to enter World War II alongside Britain. Babasaheb supported the creation of a separate Pakistan and even served as labour minister in the British government that was ruling India during the Quit India movement. If not for Gandhi, Ambedkar, who could not be elected into the Constituent Assembly, was given a Congress seat and then nominated as the head of the Constitution Drafting Committee. Never has India idolised a leader with so little followers, heading a marginalised party with no stakes in nation building. Dishonest manufacturing made him a hero. Time made him God.
Today, the popular perception is to blame the Constitution and, thus, Ambedkar for all the trials and tribulations that have afflicted India over the past 60 years. However, even the most diehard Ambedkar’s followers would agree that drafting the Constitution was a collaborative effort. Ambedkar’s team consisted of stalwarts such as K M Munshi, Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer, Gopalaswamy Ayyangar and T T Krishnamachari — eminent jurists and leading public figures. The basic draft Constitution was prepared much earlier by the constitutional advisor, B N Rau, even before it reached Ambedkar’s team.
This curious case of Ambedkar-pandering begs a larger question. Why is it that people need a hero from within? Why is history replete with the case of one among us saving the day for our brethren? And when you don’t have one among yours, why is it necessary to manufacture one?
Venkat Goli, Hyderabad
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