Recently the centenary of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkr’s post graduation from Columbia University was celebrated as a milestone event by Congress. Under normal circumstances, it would not have received such prominence. But the enthusiastic participation of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi in the discussion on iconic leader at Ambedkar’s birthplace denotes the shift of Congress’ focus from Nehru-Gandhi to Ambedkar.
Modi’s revival of debate on the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru and pulling out other icons of freedom movement from oblivion has forced congress to give up its dynastic obsession. The Nehru dynasty debate has also sidelined Congress as a party of just Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, thus disassociating it from the freedom movement as a whole.
In this scenario where Congress cannot stand just by invoking Nehru and Gandhi, it is not surprising to see Rahul’s attempts at elevating and defying Ambedkar.
He invoked Ambedkar while addressing the issue of continued casteism and inequality. Moreover, when Congress is losing its ground to Dalit parties like SP and BSP in Bihar, UP and Rajasthan and thus indicating a loss of its Dalit voters; the allegiance to Ambedkar is the only choice left to Congress. Aware of the significance of Dalit votes in political game, BJP has also been trying to associate with Ambedkar’s Hindutva leaning and tie up with Jitan Ram Manjhi to get hold of Dalit votes.
Since, the victory in UP and Bihar matters significantly for the Lok Sabha elections, Congress will have to reclaim the Dalit votes to emerge on the national scene again.
Rahul Gandhi’s Dalit agenda, which will be evident from the monsoon season of Parliament, is expected to focus on the promotion of quota and amendments to the prevention of atrocities act.
The party will also demand for improvements in SC –ST plans by asking for central budget to be earmarked for communities in proportion to their population.