With Rahul Gandhi yet to return from his “sabbatical”, Congress has decided to hold a low-key function on Tuesday to mark the beginning of the year-long celebrations of B R Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary. While, senior leader Sushil Kumar Shinde would attend a function in Mhow, the birth place of Ambedkar, on Tuesday, the party would now kick-off the nationwide celebrations at an event in the Madhya Pradesh town next month, which will be attended by Rahul.
Congress wanted to launch the celebrations in a big way, but Rahul’s unavailability forced it to redraw the schedule.
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Sources said the Congress vice-president was expected to return on Monday, but it now appears that he may return on Wednesday. Congress’s SC department too wanted to organise a public meeting at Talkatora stadium on Amedbkar Jayanti, but the uncertainty over Rahul’s return and preparations for the Kisan Rally on April 19 prompted it to drop the plan.
With RSS and BJP aggressively wooing Dalits, Congress too is leaving no stone unturned to reach out to them, key to its revival, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. And the party is at pains to explain that Ambedkar and Congress cannot be separated — it subtly suggested the Dalit icon would not achieved what he did without the support of Congress’s leadership.
“Ambedkar worked in a close partnership with Congress leaders and shaped the Constitution. This is the message Congress would like to highlight because there is a lot of misinformation that is going on. Congress would like to set the record straight as to how the party had facilitated his entry to the Constituent Assembly and how he worked closely with the Congress leaders,”said K Raju, convener of a high-profile panel set up by party president Sonia Gandhi to chalk out the programmes for the year-long celebrations. Congress said it would counter the propaganda by some Dalit parties that portrayed Ambedkar as “anti-Congress”. His philosophy is 100 per cent in consonance with Congress thought, the party said.
The panel met for the first time Monday. Both Sonia and former PM Manmohan Singh attended the meeting. Sonia said it was Congress which implemented Ambedkar’s “ideals”, be it the implementation of reservation in education and employment for SC and ST, the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and special component plan for SC/STs.
It was decided that Shinde would be sent to Mhow to attend the event, organised by the district Congress committee. Senior Congress leaders A K Antony, Shinde, Mallikarjun Kharge and Raju, who addressed the media, were at pains to explain the absence of Rahul. “Don’t worry about him. He will be there on 19th. Both Congress president and vice-president will attend the rally,” Antony said.
“It is a one-year long celebration. Large number of programmes are there,” he added, downplaying Rahul’s absence.