On Dr B R Ambedkar’s 123rd birth anniversary, the BJP attempted to co-opt Dalits into the saffron fold, projecting itself as an upholder of Dalit rights against the UPA’s alleged preference for Muslims.
In his public rallies, Narendra Modi spoke of the alleged injustice meted out by the Congress to the legacy of Dr Ambedkar, while the BJP circulated propaganda material that placed the welfare of Dalits squarely in competition with those of minorities, especially Muslims.
The material, circulated at an Ambedkar’s birth anniversary function at the party headquarters, accused the Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Misra Commission of helping the UPA government to curtail benefits to Scheduled Castes.
“The Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Misra Commission helped the UPA government to divert its focus away from the Scheduled Castes towards the Muslims, and got it to cut the funds for Scheduled Caste welfare to allot additional resources for Muslims,” the propaganda material said.
According to the pamphlet, the foundations for this shift were laid by the Prime Minister himself, when he allegedly accorded priority to minorities over SCs.
“Successive prime ministers and subsequent governments since independence have consistently assured first priority to the welfare of Scheduled Castes. But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh completely changed this by saying that ‘Muslims have the first right over national resources’,” the BJP literature said.
The material highlighted reports about Rs 60,000 crore of credit being extended to minorities, with less than Rs 5,000 crore being allocated to SCs and STs.
“The Congress (government) appointed the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission with the intention of wooing converted Christians and Muslims. The commission’s report recommended that converted Christians and Muslims should be included in the list of Scheduled Castes so that they get the benefit of job reservations,” the BJP said.
It added, “About 15 crore converted Christians and Muslims will become eligible for reservations along with 22 crore members of Scheduled Castes.”
The BJP claimed that it was the party’s opposition that had held back the implementation of the Ranganath Misra Commission report.
The propaganda material mentioned the 104th amendment brought by the then HRD Minister Arjun Singh, which exempted minority-run educational and commercial institutions from the ambit of the reservation policy, which had allegedly impacted SCs adversely, given the large number of educational institutions run by minorities.
BJP general secretary (organisation), Ramlal, an RSS pracharak loaned to the party, said during the function that the BJP was “the only party that had issued advertisements in the print media” to commemorate Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, and suggested that its prime ministerial candidate epitomised Ambedkar’s vision.
Both Ramlal and Dalit leader Udit Raj, a recent entrant into the BJP, said that BJP governments had sought to build memorials at places associated with major events in Ambedkar’s life. The propaganda material stressed that by contrast, Congress candidates had defeated Ambedkar in the 1952 and 1953 elections.
Modi used Ambedkar’s birth anniversary to accuse the Congress leadership of insulting Ambedkar.
“Three members of one (Nehru-Gandhi) family got the Bharat Ratna quickly but no Congress government thought of the Bharat Ratna for Babasaheb Ambedkar. This speaks volumes,” Modi tweeted. He said the same thing at public rallies at Lakhimpur Kheri in UP and Sikar in Rajasthan.
Modi credited the constitution framed by Ambedkar for his own rise despite coming from a humble background, and sought to trash the claims of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi on providing real entitlements to citizens.